Monday, May 12, 2014

Cabbage: Cure for Anxiety.

I hate working under a tight deadline.  Tight deadlines don't get my  adrenaline going, as they do for some people.  For me, they get my dread going.  Under a tight deadline, I worry, I fumble, I make mistakes.

So when I found out last weekend that an impending deadline for an Important Show was less than a month away, I felt the anxiety coming on. 

This deadline is for publicity for an art quilt show in which I'm participating with an ad-hoc group of other art quilters, ladies who are among the most talented I know:  Kate Themel, Mickey Lawler, Trish Hodge and Diane Wright.  Together, calling ourselves Five Fiber Friends, we've been able to interest Fair Haven Furniture, a New Haven furniture store with an art gallery in its midst,,
to hang an art quilt show.  This will take place in August and September, 2014.

But oops, now we find the publicity deadline is June 1.  By that date, Fair Haven Furniture needs images of our work for its advertising.  So I've got to do something quickly, and it's got to be good.

Did I mention that I was nervous about this?

Originally, my plan had been to try a new technique.  In fact, I was going to spend the spring and much of the summer trying new materials for this show.

But now I find I don't have the luxury of time for experimentation with anything new.  I decided that I'd be better off going with something that I already know I can do.

That would be cabbage.

Here are a couple of the cabbage images I've created over the past few years:
Glowing Cabbage III, 2011, private collection

Glowing Cabbage II, 2011, private collection
Homage to Cabbage II

Homage to Cabbage III
I decided I'd made enough cabbages to take the stress out of creating another. 

Cabbage.  The cure for anxiety.

I culled through my photo bank of images of cabbages I've grown in my yard, and I chose these three:

I'm calling this one Weeping Cabbage.  Look at the big teardrops on the bottom leaf.

I'm calling this one Perfect Green Cabbage

I'm calling this one Brooding Cabbage for the dark rumpledness of its leaves.

Unable to choose between the pearly silvers and lilacs of Weeping Cabbage and the pearly green of Perfect Green cabbage, I chose to proceed with both of them.

I printed out the images of each one on business size paper, then traced the images onto tracing paper.  I brought the traced versions to Staples and asked them to blow them up to 20 x 20--the size needed for the publicity shots.

 To choose the colors for the leaves of the two cabbages, I experimented with Jacquard and Pebeo Setacolor paints.  My painting is inspired by Mickey Lawler's Skydyes, an all-purpose handbook about applying paint to fabric.

On the top row, from among the greens, I chose the rightmost two.  On the bottom row, from the pinks, I also chose the rightmost two.  Each is a blend.

I think I got pretty close to the colors of the leaves in the photo images.

Before applying paint to fabric for the leaves, I  traced the outlines of each image onto a piece of fabric that would become the background for the cabbages.  On another piece of fabric, I traced the outline of each individual leaf, which would be embellished and layered before being cut out.

This traced background shows me where to sew the leaves, once I'm ready to sew them on.
For the leaves of Weeping Cabbage, first I put down  a mix of Pebeo setacolor paints in shimmer pearl mixed with silver and a blend I call vibrant reddish purple  (vermilion and ultramarine).  I then followed those colors with a second sponging, this one with a mix of Jacquard colorless medium blended with Pearl-Ex powder in silver-gray lavender. The result was pretty close to the duskily glowing purples of the weeping cabbage.

The color for the leaves of Perfect Green Cabbage was similarly a layering of different blends.  First, I put down a mix of Pebeo shimmer pearl, silver, and one drop of a color I call dark spruce green (emerald with a drop of black).   I then followed that with a second sponging, this one a mix of shimmer pearl, a color I call dark tropical green (yellow, cobalt, few drops of black ), a color I call dark teal (a blend of emerald and cobalt), and a Pebeo color called light green.

I think I came pretty close to the color for Perfect Green Cabbage.

You can just see the outlines of my chalk marks in the photo above.  The chalk marks went down first, traced before the fabric was painted.

By now, I've embellished the leaf shapes--which I similarly traced onto a different piece of fabric--with Shiva paintsticks to give them highlights and shadows.  Once the paintstick parts have cured (you're supposed to give them three days) I'll use satin stitch to make the veins.

This is a leaf for Weeping Cabbage.  You can see the chalk veins which I laid down before I painted the fabric.  Those veins will soon be traced by satin stitch.  You can also see the shadows and highlights I laid down with Shiva paintsticks, in iridescent white and iridescent purple, on top of the painted fabric.  I'm waiting for the Shiva colors to cure.

For the bottoms of each leaf, I've traced the veins from my pattern onto fusible interfacing.  Then I sewed pipe cleaners onto the interfacing to show the prominent veins of each leaf.  This layered item was bonded to coordinated fabric which forms the back, or lining, of each leaf.

This is the bottom, or backside, of a leaf

With this technique, each leaf is wired, but the wiring is on the inside, sandwiched between fusible interfacing bonded to coordinating fabric on one side, and the embellished, decorated leaf top on the other.  Get it?

While I'm waiting for the paintstick colors to cure, I'm thinking about the colors of the background on which I will lay these individually-prepared leaves.

For Perfect Green Cabbage, I chose tropical green, left.  For Weeping Cabbage, a blend of shimmer pearl and drop tropical green (right). 

Now my iron has just died.  I checked Consumer Reports and there were 260 reviews of irons.  Why is everything always so complicated?

And why am I sitting here blogging about this process if I'm so worried about finishing it?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Rolling out the Fiber Art: Conventions, Receptions, and Inspirations

The past few days have rolled out a lot of fiber art. From May 1 to 4, my buddy Carol and I participated in the annual convention of the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA), a 3300-member international organization for serious art quilters,  in Alexandria, Virginia, outside Washington, DC.  A mere two hours after arriving back in Hartford, Carol and I got in our cars and drove an hour to Norfolk, CT, in Connecticut's northwest hills, for a reception for the Connecticut Fiber Arts Collective's group show, Northwest Corner, in the town's public library.

 The SAQA convention was exhilarating and exhausting, inspiring and intimidating.  Seriously.  As exhilarated as I was by meeting so many other quilters and looking at some exquisite fiber art, I was also exhausted by almost nonstop socializing.  As inspired as I was by looking at the work of some of the best fiber artists in the country and world, work unique in its vision and stunning in its use of color, I was also intimidated by the high standard of artistry and workmanship...and by conference speakers' advice that we art quilters start thinking like the CEOs of our own businesses.

On the inspiration scorecard:  here are a couple of socks-knocking pieces, which I offer as examples of the dozens of art quilts at the convention, in galleries and on slides. 

Take a look at Mary Pal's work.  She works in--can you believe this?  stiffened and hand-sculpted cheesecloth.

Avo by Mary Pal
And look at this waving fabric sea grass, or kelp, by a fiber artist named Natalie Shudt,, whose three-dimensional fiber creations we saw at the Torpedo Factory, an art center combining artists' studios, classroom space, and a gallery.

So you can get the gist of the double-edged inspiration and intimidation emanating from this work.  Some of the conference message was intimidating, too, in its focus on the business side of art.  True,  that kind of talk was appropriate to the theme of the conference, Capitolizing on Fiber.  It's a pun: the conference program offerings focused on the business side of fiber arts--or capitalizing one's art--and the meeting took place in the nation's capitol.  Right?

One of the speakers told us to put on our CEO hats as soon as we got up in the morning.

I'm not there yet.

Still, there was fun in socializing with established friends and meeting new ones.

Here I am with the gang from Connecticut.  That's me, second from right--you can see my waving hand and a slice of my head.

I went to the conference for the networking and the schmoozing and the learning, but also for the opportunity to meet with some folks with, and for whom, I've worked, remotely, for years, in my capacity as a free-lance writer for the Society for Human Resource Management, (SHRM)  SHRM is headquartered there in Alexandria, and so, once I sent in my conference registration, I made arrangements to meet face to face with Margaret Clark, a SHRM employee who, like me, is a lawyer, a product of a Catholic upbringing, married to a Jew, and a resident or former resident of West Hartford, Connecticut. Margaret and bonded around these things, and around parental late-life care issues, over dinmer at Alexandria's Taverna Cretekou

After my dinner with Margaret and exhilarating but exhausting experience at the SAQA conference, my travel buddy Carol and I flew back to Hartford on Sunday May 4, arriving around noon.  After a two-hour pitstop, we drove northwest into the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains to Norfolk. CT, where, as part of our membership in the CT Fiber Arts Collective, Carol and I were participating in a fiber art show, Northwest Corner, at the Norfolk Public Library.

It's a real privilege for our art to hang in this lovely old building. 

Take a look at this barrel-vaulted ceiling, this custom woodwork  When's the last time any of us saw a public library built of such materials and with such an expansive use of space?

One of my favorite features of the library: the Latin inscription on the mantel,
Inter Folia Fructus.  Among the leaves, fruit.  Another pun:  the leaves are leaves of books, and the fruit is the product that the reader gleans from them.  Also, in nature, fruit does grow among leaves.  Right?

Sometimes I'm glad I studied Latin.

Here are six of the ten members of the CT Fiber Arts Collective, those of us who were able to get ourselves to Norfolk for the reception.  Front row, left to right, Karen Loprete and Antonia Torres.  Back row:  Rosalind Spann, Christina Blais, Diane Cadrain, Carol Vinick.

Here are the library volunteers who made the reception a reality.  Thanks, ladies!

L to R, Leslie Battis, Mary Ford-Bey, Angie Engle, and Sally Briggs.
The reception was gratifyingly well-attended
...and our art was universally well-received.

A woman whose daughter is about to be married at Norfolk's Infinity Hall bought Christina Blais' finely-tuned rendering of its funky old building. Congratulations, Christina!

In addition, Mary Lachman sold her small quilt Sea Grass  & Waves, Karen Loprete sold a table runner, and I sold a string of felted beads.

I also had two art quilts in the show: 

 This one is a view of a folk-art roadside signpost in the center of Norfolk.

This is a view of a rustic Norfolk fence that wends its crooked way past a grassy field called, I believe, the Town Meadow.

And what a lot of skilled artistry from my sister CFAC members.

Here's Rosalind Spann with Stella's Violin:

Here's Antonia Torres with Winter Red:

Here's Carol Vinick, wearing one of her own hand-dyed scarves, posing with her image of the Norfolk Library under a load of snow:

And here's Karen Loprete with My Secret Garden:

After the reception, Carol and I drove back to West Hartford for our real lives: hers as an APRN, mine as a lawyer turned journalist writing for the Society for Human Resource Management.

And we're getting ready for our upcoming shows, of which there are many, starting with Jazz Tones at Hartford's 100 Pearl Street Gallery from June 15 to August 23

At the moment, though, I better unpack that suitcase.