As a child, I lived in a house perched on a hill with sweeping vistas that were spectacular morning and evening: sunrise over the mountains; sunset over the lake. I thought everyone had that beauty around them. But as an adult, all my houses have been cozy little hobbit holes: charming, not expansive, slightly subterranean. As a result, I tend to surround myself with landscapes and vistas - both real and imagined.
Fiber lends itself to graceful landscapes. Layering of textures and colors are evocative. Margaret Roberts' landscapes are exceptional fiber constructions. The color is rich and the textures is plentiful, but never heavy-handed. Roberts is also generous in letting us peek into her sketchbooks and see how her ideas develop. How she collects photographs and sketches, then supplements that with fabric scraps and snippets of yarn. She is not the silent genius behind the curtain, but rather a growing, experimenting artist - and an inspiration.
image: Field Furrows by Margaret M. Roberts
Add your comments! I have enabled the comments at the bottom of each article. If you have thoughts or pointers to contribute, please click on the comments link and add your ideas, thoughts and visions! (note: anonymous comments are not accepted. You will need to post an email address to be able to comment. )
I hope that these comments will allow everyone to contribute and share their ideas and resources! And if you have any questions about this, well - just add a comment! Serena
Don Nice is a photorealist painter who has demonstrated amazing staying power in the fickle world of art. His work is included in almost every book on the "new realism" in painting that began to emerge in America in the late 1970s/early 80s. The pieces back then were simple images, often with pop art iconography, candy wrappers or soda cans. Eventually Nice moved into a fascination with nature, a subject he has explored for the past twenty or so years. A clip below from the review by Carter Horseley gives a glimpse into how this process has evolved.
"For a while, Nice produced large "portraits" of animals like buffaloes but it is not until he began his "totems" that his art really begins to resonate. At first, he did vertical "totems," but more recently he has experimented wildly and very effectively with their form, sometimes using a star form and often far more complex forms, sometimes perforated. The "predellas" at first were at the bottom of rectangular pictures, but now often surround the central image and even, in the "spinners," are not always right-side up. Whereas traditional predellas on Renaissance altarpieces were usually different scenes from the subject's life, Nice's predellas are often single animals, like a bird or a squirrel, and while the Renaissance masters were deeply involved with quite specific symbolism of animals and objects that they included in their works, one gathers that Nice does not have a specific iconographic hierarchy and is content to let viewers of his works free-associate."
Images by Don Nice; "Hudson River Series" (top) and "Montana Spinner, 2002"
Today's workout: Jane Dunnewold has a wonderful exercise, Expansion of the Square, on her site. The stated goal of the exercise is to stretch yourself in seeing positive-negative space. But the way the work is executed, or perhaps it is Jane's design sensibilities, makes a simple exercise in negative space and symmetry into something active and evocative.
From the exercise: "Notan, the interaction of positive and negative, or field and ground, is the basis of all good design and exists all around us. The "Expansion of the Square" exercise is one Notan exercise designed to study the interaction of positive and negative space, but these very cool designs can also be turned into quilt blocks, images to be printed, or small embroideries."
Joan Erbe is a Baltimore treasure. She has been painting seemingly forever. Erbe has achieved legendary status in her hometown, yet her works remain undiscovered by a wider audience.
Erbe's paintings transport viewers into a fantasy world of kewpie dolls and circus freaks. Both are startling, yet neither is a cause for nightmares. From a review of her works: "Erbe's striking images seduce the viewer. With subject matter that ranges from dreamily uplifting to eerily disquieting, Erbe is willing to see the darker side of life, but does so with an undercurrent of humor. An Erbe painting is simultaneously funny and alarming. It simultaneously draws viewers in and keeps them at bay. It is this quality --- the push and pull of the beautiful, the bizarre, and the macabre --- that makes an Erbe, 'an Erbe.'"
Erbe's layering and flattened images are created with paint on panel, yet offer an insight into some of the layering and blending that the fiber community might aspire to. Her colors are rich and the patterning indicate, often repeating elaborate fabric patterning. Fiber artists looking to explore figurative or surrealistic imagery will find much to explore in Erbe's paintings.
image: Baby and Dog, 1996, hand-colored collagraph, 42" x 30" by Joan Erbe
Almost every quilting email list seems to have a regular stream of questions about how to set up a web site and how to sell art online. My advice (rather prejudiced - I do design web sites for a living, so I am opinionated on this) is that you should hire someone whose web design work you admire.
An amateur-looking web site can make any art look bad. A great website will make the art shine. A well designed web site should be minimal in design and let the viewer focus on your artwork. I know that many folks cannot afford a web designer or they just want to do it themselves.
Carolyn Vehslage's article, How to Open an Online Gallery has some basic information for those of you who feel ready to take the plunge. Using her own site, clv quilts Vehslage examines the ways that a web site can strengthen an artist's public exposure. She also addresses the need to keep your site current and allotting time for regular maintenance.
If you read her article and find that you are still of a mind to design your own web site, the next step would be to learn seriously about web site design issues. For this there is nothing better than the Yale Web Style Guide, which is free online or inexpensive at your local bookstore. It is not a quick read, but it covers many design issues that are applicable far beyond the web. Read it - it's good for you! And it's doubly good for anyone who may use your future web site.
Hannah Hinchman is the author of several books on visual journaling, two of which are significant to me: A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place, and A Life in Hand: Creating the Illuminated Journal. For years I have read and re-read both of these books. Growing up, I spent every summer in the back roads of Montana, so Hinchman's drawings crystalize those magical memories of my childhood: lying in tall grass, watching bees slowly explore each flower. Hinchman is a master at illustration. She doesn't just replicate the look of what she see, but she captures and conveys its essence. Her drawings have a naturalist's notation of the strict reality of the situation, but her pen strokes capture the moment's glory of being alive.
Both books are full with hints and points of inspiration on how to become a better journal keeper, as well as how to learn and grow from what you record. Lately I have been struggling with the balance in fiber art with "cuteness". "Cute" is an all-too-easy path to follow, if you are working with fabric and thread. I find myself returning to A Trail Through Leaves, Chapter Four: The Power of the Ordinary. "The trail of words and pictures that I'm leaving is more complete than most people's, but its still a trail of tips and icebergs, little slices of light and color that are all that I can capture of the big masses moving underneath. But threading through, in fact, floating on top of all this matter like sea ducks among the icebergs, are moments of the ordinary-made-extraordinary by the simple act of choosing and isolating them"
images: from A Trail Through Leaves by Hannah Hinchman.
Note: you might need to use Internet Explorer to get the site to open correctly. Fraser Smith is the creator of some phenomenal quilts. The coloring an patterning is lush. The drape of the fabric is so fluid and soft that it seems irresistible. You just want to caress the fabric. Unfortunately, Fraser's quilts aren't fabric. They aren't textiles at all. Smith is a woodcarver. His quilts are carved from blocks of wood and then intricately patterned and painted with dyes or watercolors. In the details of his pieces, he has caught the waivering of light and shadows that quilts get through the interplay of batting and stitching; the way each stitch pulls down ever-so-slightly the surface of the quilt.
Smith explains his process: "Understand, I do not carve exact replicas of cloth, but rather something that looks like what our 'minds eye' perceives as cloth. Consider walking into a room and seeing all the usual things that you would expect to see - table and chairs, a painting or two and ... well, what's this? Someone has hung an old tuxedo on a hook in the middle of the wall. You have to ask yourself, 'Why is this thing here?' At first, you see an incongruous object and you'll make some sort of mental judgment on that. Then you discover that it's a block of wood, and you have to immediately change that judgment. So in a way, on another level, it's like magic." magic = art = magic. We should all make a little!
image: Fraser Smith "Hibiscus" Carved wood & Silk Dyes 68" x 24" x 4"
In The First Rule Of The Quilting Society, the Onion, a national satire magazine has taken on quilting, through the input of columnist, "Mrs. Bert K. Verdon. Helen to my friends." Most of the articles in the Onion seem to be written by and for 20 something males. But this one isn't. In fact, from my experience, I would say that it was written by someone who has been to a quilting guild meeting or two, and knows how to use all of the weapons of mass assemblage.
For those of you who are guild/society regulars, Mrs. Bert K. Verdon gives this advice: "But some of you may still be wondering what drove you to this place, this mutually supportive environment where our raw, primal passion for patterning, cutting, piecing, and stitching has found a home, an oasis where our pent-up natural instinct to nurture explodes in a frenzy of furious, estrogen-fueled bonding. I see an awful lot of new faces in the crowd tonight, and that means one thing: Some of you little old biddies haven't been observing the first two rules of the quilting society. So, for the benefit of you rookies in the room: The first rule of the quilting society is: You don't talk about the quilting society."
Here's hoping that Helen will write more about the secrets of quilting!
Log cabin quilts have an immense appeal to me. The geometries and regular rhythms make them soothing to live with. They're the "comfort food" of the quilt world. But I love pictorial pieces. Flavin Glover has a method that meshes the two worlds to create pictorial log cabins.
A Peek Into Pictorial Log Cabins offers a variety of ways that you can make representational images within the confines of the log cabin tradition. She has some amazing compositions, including round fluffy shapes like sheep, and landscapes that are constructed from the regulation log cabin shapes and techniques. Her most famous pieces are her urban streetscapes, such as Row Houses (at right), where she has used the angles of the log cbin geometries to create houses, doors, windows and roofs.
For more insight, Glover has posted a pattern for making your own row house quilt (or being inspired by this work to push the boundaries even further!)
Searching for the elusive manual for the aging (inherited) sewing machine. I am a fanatic about old sewing machines. Maybe its because for 15 years I sewed on my grandmother's 1920s Singer. It only went forward; no reverse; no zigzag. So now when I have a machine that does more than that, I feel like a princess. Today my latest acquisition arrived: A Viking/Husqvarna Classica 100. It looks like it spent the last decade in the corner of someone's attic - dusty, but hardly used. The oil is probably thick, disgusting gunk. I cleaned it up and went on a manual hunt.
Disclaimer: Ordinarily I hate about.com. They have good information, but everything else about the site gives me the creeps: popup ads, framed content, everything! Today I hit the jackpot though. About.com has the master list for where to get a copy of the manual for your old sewing machine. Since about.com's content has a tendency to wander, I am quoting the list below:
Telephone Contact #
|800-422-2952||This number will take you to an automated system. Use the dealer locator feature to contact someone near your location.|
|800-405-2739||You will be directed to a local dealer, but will talk to a real person.|
|800-284-4357||This phone number is for sewing machine manuals.|
|800-848-3562||Order retired manuals on line or use the phone number for current models.|
|800-446-2333||This 800# is customer service for manuals.|
|800-631-0183||This phone number will gain you dealership information to contact someone near you.|
|800-366-7278||This number is for Kenmore Parts. Have your machine model number and information ready.|
|800-997-3233||I called this number and contacted a dealer. I am still confused, as to exactly who this was and they did not return the phone call. Do not hang up if the do not answer the phone as "Pfaff". This is the number that Pfaff lists for contact.|
|800-995-9110||Their site has a dealer locator and email form to make contact.|
|800-474-6437||Use this number if you could not obtain your model on line.|
|800-446-2333||This 800# is customer service for manuals for Husquavarna/Viking and for White machines.|
Judith Martin's extraordinary quilts are featured at creativity.com. She also maintains her own web site with a full gallery. Martin's work utilizes photographic, painting and embroidery to create representational expressive images in fiber. Intriguing is how her use of photographic images weaves into the other surfacing techniques, rather than standing apart.
Martin lives on a small island in Canada, where she creates art works that focus on the balancing act of most contemporary women: " "Quilt making is my art process. Its subject is my life story, which is typical of many women my age. I am married, have children and work outside the home. I have aging parents, an emptying nest, and several sets of friends. I live close to nature and I worry a lot. All of these things are the content of my art. If I could have chosen a process of how to express it, I would have chosen poetry or painting. The quilt language of traditional pattern and emotional colour has chosen me." (from creativity.com)
image: The Blood Shimmers by Judith Martin
I love Wendy Huhn's work. The humor is outstanding; the work is just downright clever! I read somewhere (or at least I think I did) that years ago Wendy decided that her drawing wasn't good enough. So she developed her own style, which took advantage of her sense of design and used mechanical methods of reproduction to get around the drawing problem. This harkens back to my thinking that "style is based on limitations" and is a good example that we could all celebrate our limitations.
Wendy comments on her work: "My humorous approach to life and art manifests in a number of ways. I think of myself as a visual scavenger of imagery. The stories I tell through my work reflects the way I view the world often a brass voice in a room of hushed tones. It is my wish that the viewer be drawn in, perhaps puzzle over and be amused by what they see."
image: 48 Feet by Wendy Huhn (Detail)
Rachel Howard is a U.K. stitcher whose work I find engrossing, but it is darned hard to find much of it on the web. I first stumbled across Howard's work while browsing through the 62group's gallery.
The integration of sketching and stitching is what makes Howard's work so engrossing. Each piece is different, yet there is a current of consistency and exploration that runs through them all. Her piece for the competition held by
Coats and Clark illuminates the possibilities of embroidery as a vital sketching medium.
image: humorous ties by Rachel Howard
In a minute ago has been launched by sharon b. After I wrote about her stitch dictionary, we began emailing each other about blogging and lamenting the lack of non-knitting-textile-blogging (not that I don't like knitting, mind you. I just can't do it!). Sharon has a long history of exploring technology and stitching. She maintains an archive of digital-fiber explorations that she has been producing since 1996. It also turns out that her stitch dictionary barely scratches the depth of her knowledge on the subject. She has documented about 1200 different embroidery stitches and hopefully will be adding them via her blog, as time allows.
Stop by her blog now and make it a regular stop. She's down in Australia, a long ways from North Carolina (U.S.A), where I am, so her thoughts and perspectives will be literally a world away. And email me if you know any other good non-knitting-fiber blogs!
Elizabeth Barton's art quilts are one of Fiberarts magazine's current online articles. Barton identifies herself as a "failed watercolorist". Well... maybe... Perhaps in the strict two dimensional world of watercolor, there could be some sense in this disclaimer. But in the world of quilting, where things can be disassembled and re-arranged, layered and embellished, Barton's background as a watercolorist serves her well. In many of her cityscapes, Barton emphasizes watercolor's fluidity and creates bold imagery in this unforgiving medium. Her cities shimmer with the energy of Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie.
Barton's landscapes, while retaining a pastoral color pallette, jump with energy. Geoff's Shed (Art Quilt Sedgwick 2003) depicts a country scene rife with movement and activity. There are the fields, the barn red structure and hints of cats and windmills. But this is a working scene, not a quiet Andrew Wyeth retreat.
Barton also created quilts that are abstractions and color studies, all of which promise to be much richer in person than on the internet. Ah well. At least there is this glimpse into her wonderfully rich world.
image: Geoff's Shed by Elizabeth Barton
Stretch your imagination with a series of online art challenges thrown to the general public. Learning to Love You More "is both a web site and series of non-web presentations comprised of work made by the general public in response to assignments given by artists Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher and various guests." Simple directions; they give out an assignment and anyone who wants to takes up the challenge.
My favorite of the assignments (to date) is probably: Assignment #6:Make a poster of shadows. Christina Ory has created some shadows that have lives and tales of their own to tell just with expressive detailed shapes. John VanBeers has created a compelling series of hard-edge abstract forms laid out on a grid.
The assignments are being shown at art museums internationally, including The Whitney Biennial, Seattle Art Museum, and the FACT Center in Liverpool, England. The exercises are intended for all media, possibly video and photography being the most common. But many of the ideas could be used as sparks to charge any design dead end. How about a gridded quilted, embroidered shadow study?
sharon b's Stitches for Embroidery and Needlework is a lengthy and well illustrated resources of hand embroidery stitches assembled by an Australian textile artist and colege professor, Sharon Boggon The best thing about this dictionary is that it provides photos of the stitches as they are being created as well as several illustrations of the stitches in-use in several unusual pieces.
image: Whipped spider's wheel stitch by Sharon Boggon
Danny Gregory's Illustrated Weblog Journal is a regularly updated blog with pages from a wonderfully inspiring artist's journal! He jumps freely from medium to medium and pushes the box, trying a variety of styles. Best of all were the words that greeted me today about being fearless about committing to drawing in your journal: " January 01, 2004 - Do not fear mistakes
Marybethd sent me an email asking how she could go about finding her own voice. She also said she was reluctant to draw in her journal because "if I make a bad drawing, I am stuck with it...Forever!"
I wrote: Isn't it interesting that everybody has their own style of drawing and making visual things? It almost suggests that we actually see things differently. Perhaps each of us is looking through our own lense that has particular scratches and distortions that come from the years of accumulated experience. We may all be striving to capture the same reality in front of us and yet, despite skill and practice, end up with very different marks on the paper and the same sense of satisfaction that we have actually captured what was in front of us. Even if you change media and techniques or look at your work over a lifetime, it is still you."
Gregory also has a homepage with links to many of his books and interviews.
image:December 27, 2003- Destuffing my Life by Danny Gregory