Monday, November 17, 2014

Let's have a big hand for persistence

Let's have a big hand for persistence. 

I'm working on an image of hands (a pair of dark-skinned hands working on a project with a pair of light-skinned hands) for an upcoming art quilt show centered on a theme of civil rights.  I'm using a technique taught by an art quilter named Susan Carlson

The photo of the hands was kindly furnished to me by Dani Abrams, whose mother, Jackie Abrams, owns the hands on the right.  Jackie was teaching basket-making in Namibia at the time.

Susan Carlson's technique involves using lots and lots of little teeny-weeny pieces of fabric, holding  each one in place with a tiny spot of glue in the center until all the pieces are in place.  Here's my initial attempt at that technique:

But after many hours spent on this iteration, I decided that the pieces had a more haphazard look than I wanted.  The hands looked...well, scabby.  Or leprotic.  Or psoriataic.  The skin on them looked as if it were exfoliating.

See what I mean?

So I started all over with a second pair of hands.  Here's what I have so far.

The pieces are still teeny-weeny, and the concentration it takes to place them is still intense.  But at least they don't look like they have psoriasis.

 I'm willing to put in the time because, well, I want this image to be good.  It will hang at the Hartford Public Library starting in about mid-December, for a show with a theme of civil rights.  It's worth doing right.

You know how they say art is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration? Well.

Persistence.  Let's have a big hand for persistence.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


When the Hartford Public Library invited my art quilt group, the Connecticut Fiber Arts Collective, to mount a show to honor the library's acquisition of two enormous murals by  African-American collage artist Romare Bearden, part of the deal was that the Library would produce a video about our group.

And so today, it came to pass.

 Pramod Pradhan is the Hartford Public Library's videographer
All ten members of the Connecticut Fiber Arts Collective met on a Saturday morning at Carol Vinick's West Hartford home, each of us bringing the piece we plan to put in the show, intending to work on it and talk about it while the videographer got it all down.  Did I tell you that our exhibit will not only honor Bearden, but also focus on civil rights, honoring the anniversaries of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

So here's Carol Vinick telling the camera about the stunning images of Rosa Parks which she's creating from tiny pieces of fabric:

Carol is showing Pramod the iconic photo of Rosa Parks being booked after being arrestred

Carol traced the photo and enlarged the traced version to create this pattern

How about that!  Are you impressed?  I am!

Carol is also creating this image of Rosa Parks on the bus, about to be arrested.
 And how about this portrait of MLK by Linda Martin?

Christina Blais is creating a quotation from pieced letters.  The quote is from--Christina, correct me here if I'm wrong--Rosa Parks, who said that when she was about to be arrested, she felt a determination come over her. Here Christina is showing us the pieced letters of the word "determination":

I think this show is challenging us each to stretch, to try new methods, to give her all to going out on an artistic limb.  Many of us are trying a new method of collage piecing which we learned in a recent group class with quilt artist Susan Carlson.  I know I'm stretching myself in my efforts to emulate her technique.  Here's my piece:

While all this art was happening, and Pramod was taping it, we enjoyed hanging out together:

Wanda Seldon, Christina Blais, Toni Torres, Linda Martin (partially hidden).

Christina Blais, Linda Martin

Rosalind Spann, Mary Lachman
We're working against a deadline of early December to have our pieces ready to be hung at the Hartford Public Library.  We're pumped!

The Connecticut Fiber Arts Collective.  Standing, L-R, Diane Cadrain, Carol Vinick, Karen Loprete, Rosalind Spann, Wanda Seldon, Carol Eaton, Christina Blais, Mary Lachman, Linda Martin
Seated: Antonia Torres

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Silver Tapestries

I'm a fiber artist, but this post, Silver Tapestries, isn't about fiber.  It's about my garden.  Because I view gardening as an alternative means of experimenting with shape and color...but with a bit of science thrown in.

 I planted a silver garden in 2007.  I chose plants that have either silvery leaves or silvery flowers.  It's a learning curve.  Not everything I originally planted has survived.  But much of it has.  This fall, I'm relishing that silver, which continues to shine out, despite the falling temperatures and waning sunlight.

Here's snow-in-summer (cerastium tomentosum) on the left and dianthus Tatra Fragrance on the right.  Silver threads and silver needles.
These two types of leaves illustrate two different types of silver foliage.  The snow-in-summer is silvery because it's felted.  The dianthus is silvery because its glaucous--a shine similar to the silvery sheen on a grape.

Of the few plants still flowering in the garden at this late date, two of them are in the silver garden.  Russian sage (perovskia filigran) blooms pale silvery lavender on the left, and on the right, October daphne (sedum Sieboldii) blooms silvery pink.

How about these cabbages, battered but glorious?

As you can see below, someone or something has been gnawing away at one of them.  I think it's my husband, Joe Rubin:

Elsewhere on our expansive grounds, another part of the garden features plants of silver and maroon foliage.  This Heuchera Silver Scrolls lives there, and it doesn't seem at all bothered by the crisp autumn temperatures:

The lamiums like the cool weather.  Look how they continue to put out frosty silvery foliage:

Lamium White Nancy (lamium maculatum) nestled among the still-dewy foliage of forget-me-not (myosotis sylvatica)

Lamium White Nancy cozying up to Lamium Beacon Silver
On the picnic table:  October Daphne with Sedum Cauticola:

So, silver tapestries.  But no fiber.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Game Changers

Today marks my second hop into blog hopping. I'm honoring--and hoping to get people to visit--the blogs of my buddies Ruth Ann Olson  and Mary Lachman.

Ruth is a friend, a prolific quilter, and a member of Sisters in Cloth, a quilters' group on the Connecticut shoreline.  Mary and is not only a quilter but a writer, having just brought out an edition of her late grandfather's poetry from the 1930s.

And I...I'm doing the blog hop with Ruth Ann and Mary, and not only that, but today I can report on a show I saw this morning:  Game Changers:  Fiber Art Masters and Innovators.

 It was at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA.  I'd never heard of the place until a teacher at Snow Farm, the Williamsburg, MA art school which I've attended twice recently, mentioned it.  This particular teacher, who taught structural knitting, has an assemblage constructed of knitted of wire in the Fuller's current show.

Today I went to see that show with my Hartford buddy Linda Martin and my college roommate, Rosalie Lamontagne, who lives in Whitinsville, MA, about 45 minutes from the museum.

"From the humble beginnings of human needs to survive, fiber artists today have turned the basic necessities of the past into art of the highest quality," the Game Changers brochure reads.  "Quiltmakers are taking the grid and the crazy quilt and concentrating on color over pattern.  Embroiderers are designing elaborate wall pieces, and the sewing machine is now as important in the fiber arts as the loom has been.  Novel materials such as cantaloupe rind, wasp nests, and film strips are being used.  The world of fiber art continues to amaze with its multiple facets."

The piece below is made of cotton and wire.

Time of Ten Suns by Carol Eckert

A tapestry, like the one below, is much closer to the kind of art that comes to mind when I think of fiber art.  But look at the colors in this tapestry!  And the weird figures:

Warrior of Night in the Blue Light by Maximo Laura

Here's a nontraditional fiber art.  These figures are actually knitted with wire.

Truth to Power by Adrienne Sloane
The nontraditional fibers in Odd Pair, below,  include melon rind, cedar bark, and wasp nest fiber:

Odd Pair by Jan Hopkins

 This map of New York City is constructed with giant stitches:

New York City Map by Ruben Marroquin
These cowboy boots are constructed of twigs:
Boots Sculpture by John McQueen, with my buddy and college roommate Rosalie
My favorite piece in the show was this one:
Summer Meadow by Carol Shinn

Can you believe this one was created entirely with thread painting?

Outside, the museum's grounds bear exploring:

Linda and Rosalie
 I especially like the path traced by these three boulders:

The trip was a day worth taking.  A whole museum, just for craft!  Who knew?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Learning the Hard Way

The hard way.  Sometimes it seems as if that's the only way I learn anything.

A week ago, for example, I tried using free-motion satin stitching to depict some sand ripples.

But there was a disappointingly large chasm between the beauty of the image I was trying to depict and the method I chose to depict it.

As I said, I'm learning the hard way. 

The other day, I did it again.  This time I was trying to use needle felting on silk to create an image of hands.  I know that hands are supposed to be particularly difficult to render well.  I also know that dimensionality is created by color value, and so I carefully separated some of my silks into light, medium and dark values:

 Above are some of the lights.  Below are some of the darks:

 I got really compulsive in this process.  I brought the concept of  anal to new heights.

"The harder they come, the harder they fall."--Jimmy Cliff

Once I had the silks separated by value, I created a pattern by tracing an image onto silk habotai.  I figured that silk would felt right into silk, seeing as how they're both natural fibers.

 Unfortunately, my felting machine, also known as a Baby Lock Embellisher, was in the shop, being repaired after a fall. So I pinned the background image to a square of sponge rubber and went at it with a needle felting tool.  This was the result:

 "That's-a no good."--Chico Marx

What I learned:  the image was too small, and the silk too shreddy, for needle felting.

 But what's a whole afternoon's work down the tubes? 

I hate to spend so much time unproductively, but I'm going to put a positive face on it, chalk it up as a learning experience, and Keep On Keepin' On.  I need that image of hands for an upcoming show at the Hartford Public Library.

I got that image from Jackie Abrams,  a basketmaker whom I met at Snow Farm, a Massachusetts art school, and whose hands are on the right in the photo, and her daughter, Dani, who took the photo.  Jackie and Dani made my day when they decided to allow me to use this striking image.  I'm going to transform it into a collage-style quilt for an art quilt show with a a theme of civil rights.

My first attempt bit the dust.  But I tried again in a small-group class with quilt artist Susan Carlson ( who was in Connecticut last week.  Because Susan was in town, one of my quilt groups, the Connecticut Fiber Arts Collective, her for a private lesson just for us, and we spent a blissful day learning her collage quilting style. I tried again on the hands.

Here's Susan showing us how she fastens down tiny pieces of fabric to create a coherent whole:

Look at the art she creates with this technique!

This portrait started as a photo, then became a line drawing with areas of light, medium and dark values all mapped out.  
Isn't that splendid?

 We were an appreciative and eager audience.

Once Susan had explained her technique, she had us practice by freehand-sketching an image of a fish onto a piece of muslin, then filling in the fish with bits of fabric in light, medium and dark values.  Here's mine:

I never finished this fish because once Susan saw I knew how to work with lights, mediums, and darks, she okayed me to go ahead and work on my image of hands.

Dani Abrams took this photo in Namibia while she was serving in the  Peace Corps.  I told Jackie I would send her progress photos as I worked.

Look at the tininess of the pieces of fabric I'm using for this process!  Stll proud to say I'm bringing the concept of anal to new heights here.

Here's what I have so far.  I think this image of hands is pretty plausible.

And you know what?  Working with such precision really appeals to me.  I go into my own world.  Even more so when I listen to a book at the same time (currently, Ann Lamott's Stitches).

Proceeding by learning the hard way.  That's me.