Saturday, April 27, 2013

Inspirational Weekend

Call it what you will: artist date, professional development, girl's weekend, retreat, etc., getting out of the studio alone, or with friends, is almost always inspirational and invigorating. Gee's Bend Quilts
(Deborah and another guest discuss quilt construction)

I had the pleasure last weekend to have just such an experience. On Friday, long time blog (and now real-life) friend Tonya invited Deborah and I to join her for a special presentation by Gee's Bend quilters Mary Lee Bendolf and Loretta Pettway of their story and many of their quilts.
  Gee's Bend Quilts
(Deborah chats with Mary Lee Bendolf about her work)

The event was small, and held at a law office hoping to help them find suitable venues for the quilts to be part of a permanent collection. It was unlike the usual shows, but absolutely wonderful to chat with the quilters, and to see the quilts up close -- and even touch them! Gee's Bend Quilts
(Deborah and Tonya admire -- and touch! -- a quilt)

Saturday, I took Tonya as my guest and met Deborah at a regional SAQA meeting. There was a particularly convivial atmosphere as we enjoyed seeing mini trunk shows from three members, and had a short but very informative presentation about critique techniques.

I'm confident in saying that all our heads were swimming with information and inspiration. Deborah and I both call ourselves art quilters, but our styles are quite different. Tonya considers herself first and foremost a Quilter with a capital Q. Our different approaches but common love for textiles combined to easily fill the spaces between our formal outings with lively conversation about art, utility, definitions of quilts, show and tell, lots of laughter, goals and upcoming projects. By the time I got home, I was exhausted, but I was full in head and heart, and energized in spirit.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hundertwasser Kicked My Butt!

Liz here with you today. I love to take classes. I am at a stage in my study of art where I take classes from outside my main discipline of textiles.   I take jewelry, metal working and recently have delved into painting classes. Two weeks ago I was teaching at Art andSoul, a fantastic mixed media art retreat, in Kansas City and I decided to treat myself to a class with Jill Berry. I have wanted to take this class ever since I first read the description last year. The class is called Under the Influence. Jill choose 4 artists who have influenced her work. The four artists are: Wayne Thiebaud (California), Wosene Worke Kosrof (Ethiopia), Friedensreich Hundertwasser (Austria) and Joan Miró (Spain). A couple I had never even heard of but I am a big fan of Jill’s work and know she is a great teacher so I dove in to this 2 day class with just a little bit of worry about my lack of painting experience.

We started with Miro and had to create a family portrait.  This was a very fun exercise learning how to use symbols in our work. Miro was great to start with and most of us felt pretty comfortable with this piece. I am not revealing which family member is which symbol! None of my pieces are done but I will keep working on them when I am back in my home studio.

Next up was Wosene Worke  Kosrof.  I had never heard of him before but really loved looking deeper at his work and his process. I love the piece I created in his style. I was totally out of my element here and a bit uncomfortable but after I relaxed I really got into the flow.
Day two started with Wayne Thiebaud, another artist I knew little about. His changeable landscape and city perspectives and use of color lines were intriguing to experiment with. Again I was very uncomfortable at the start but once I got the hang of his many layered lines of color I enjoyed the process and it is quite addicting.
Lastly we came to Hundertwasswer. I love his work! On the surface his work looks fairly straightforward and simple but the more you look at it the details and layers become clearer the more complex. I started off pretty confident but it was less than a half hour before I started looking for distractions because I was so uncomfortable and not thrilled with my progress. I wanted to measure and plot out rather than just go with the feeling of his work. I wandered around the room to look at everyone else’s work; I went for a walk to clear my head. I came back to try again. I was off the deep end in my level of discomfort! I am not at all happy with this piece! There is still a lot of work to be done on it.

I am however inspired to continue exploring the feeling and emotion in his work. As an artist I find that when I push through the uncomfortable hours that arise during of the process of creation I find the most growth in my work. I think it is the uncomfortable, unsure, don't know where I am going parts that are the hardest aspect of making art. What is your experience?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Getting A Creative Jolt

Gloria Hansen here.

I’ve recently been in a place of pause, not making as much art as I’d like due to a variety of circumstance.  Such times have happened in the past, and I’m sure they will happen in the future. What’s important is finding a way to accept the cycle of creative flows and keep myself open to what’s around me. One way of doing this is taking in some art exhibitions with the hope that something strikes a chord and gives me a needed creative jolt. 

In late January while in San Francisco attending MacWorld, I spent a day at SFMOMA initially to see a Jasper Johns exhibit. While I enjoyed viewing that exhibit, what truly knocked my socks off and moved me to near tears was another exhibit called Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective.  I didn’t know much of her, but learned while perusing some information that she was an artist of the Beat generation of San Francisco who died of cancer in 1989 at age 60.  The more I viewed her work and learned, the more overwhelmed I became. The retrospective is now at The Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC until June 2, 1013, and I encourage anyone, especially those in need of inspiration, to visit.

Her most well-known piece (shown above, and I did get permission to photograph) is The Rose. It weighs nearly one ton (yes, one ton!) and took some eight years to complete. When I first viewed it, which is nearly 12 foot in height and some 8” thick, I thought it was made of layers of painted plaster.  It is, however, oil on canvas with wood and mica. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around nearly two thousand pounds of paint in a work she refers to it as “a marriage between painting and sculpture.”  It was eye-opening to listen to some of the stories, such as the painting was too large to fit out of her studio door and that a moving company was hired to remove the bay window and lower the work with a forklift!  It was only shown for a short time, and she was unable to find a museum home for it.  Because some thought it would take over 100 years for the oils to completely dry, eventually it was placed in a plaster mold and put behind a temporary wall for nearly 25 years years before a historic conversation restored it to public view.

However, I didn’t see her most well-known piece until the very end of the exhibit and I was already in complete awe.  Pieces such as The Eyes, which is graphite on paper, her many untitled photographs and works on paper, and her oil paintings such as The Jewel, Origin, and The Veronica,  held me absolutely captivated.  Even without The Rose, I was incredibly moved and humbled by her work. I still am.

If you cannot get to The Whitney, you may enjoy viewing this video, which runs about a half hour and goes through the show. You can learn more about her and her work, including news and events, at The Jay DeFeo Trust's website.  I hope her art and story inspires you as it did me.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Art in other forms

I've been so drawn lately to explore the boundaries of my art in other forms. I'm intrigued with the idea of applying the defining (for me) aspects of "fiber art" or "quilt art" to unexpected surfaces, shapes and materials. 

This fiber house book is an example of this idea - each page is technically a quilt with three layers held together with stitching, but in an unexpected shape and with an unexpected purpose.

These Spirit Flags use stitching, painting and printing techniques on a fabric (canvas) with a strong textural, woven presence.

A combination of etching and block printing on paper, printed on a press, celebrates the type of patterning that is typically seen in commercial fabric. And I stitched around the perimeter of the color field to bring another stitching/quilting reference to the piece.

And finally a couple of small collages that reflect the patterning found in commercial fabrics and with hand-inked stitches mounted on painted and stenciled canvas board.

Some of the pieces shown here are brand new and some are not as new, but all represent the direction I currently feel pulled in. Have you ever re-examined your medium to isolate its defining qualities and then applied those qualities in unexpected ways?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Wanna Play?

Benedicte Caneill here.
I recently visited the exhibit: Gutai:Splendid Playground at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.   It presents the Gutai movement, a Japanese avant-garde collective of the postwar period, founded in 1954, whose members explored numerous art forms.  It is not my goal here to review this great show.  But this exhibit with the word ‘playground’ in the title reminded me that I need to play more despite deadlines or agendas.  

I am sharing with you something I do when I want to play.  I take a 4” x 6” piece of heavy interfacing and makes a postcard size little composition.  Nothing elaborate, just what I want to experiment with at that particular moment.  Here are some of the results of my playground experiments.  Since I love animals, they are very often the theme of those little works.  I draw, paint, print or collage, stitch on top and finally finish the edges.  Want to join me?  Choose a theme and jump in.  Those postcards might end up in the mail for a friend, on your wall or in your drawer, but you will always be rewarded by the fact that instead of procrastinating whether to go in the studio or not, you chose to give yourself permission to play!

Friday, April 5, 2013

playing with plastic

Hello Natalya here, typing with gluey fingers after the latest experiment. Lately I have found myself working with plastics once again. Those horrendous plastic bags that are still used in all the big box stores around here. Somehow, even though I mostly remember to bring my own cloth bags, I still wind up with tons of the plastic in my house. Occasionally I'll use them for texture, clear layer or shine in my work. But recently I endeavored to create a whole piece just from plastic.

In the past I have simply layered the plastic, pinned and stitched right thru it. But plastic tends to slide and that does not achieve perfect placement, which is usually OK by me, except that this time I was looking for something more precise. So I decided to experiment with matte medium.

I drew my basic sketch on paper and started cutting and layering the plastic right on top. Between each layer and the paper I added a light wash of matte medium. I smoothed things out as I worked, and all seemed to be going well. Until it dried. First off, I rediscovered that glue trapped between plastic sheets takes an awfully long time to dry... And when it does dry - it puckers. I was a bit worried that I'd have to scrap things..
I thought I'd outline-stitch my buildings first and then see how I feel. Things were still puckery, but I wanted to keep going.

By the time I stitched the details, the puckers did not bother me so much. I kind of liked the extra texture they added.
I moved on to the hand stitched details and the puckers were not an issue at all. Now hand stitching consumed all my attention and demanded more and more.
Here is a detail of the finished piece. See the full picture on my blog here

I am continuing with my plastics experiment: there is a sister piece to the "Glass Bridge" above, which is about to get its hand stitched details. It had a lot more time to dry, so I am curious to see if it'll feel different to stitch through. And for the piece after that, I intend to try fusing the plastics together. My only worry is about the fumes...glad spring is here...all my studio windows will be open!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Beryl Here !!!

I hate throwing anything away so I usually have a box of left overs from earlier work. I like to use them up by piecing them together like a jig-saw to create one large piece - hence the photo.

I place layer upon layer of papers, paints, fabrics, anything that might have landed in the box.

I produce these experimental pieces in between times when I am not working to deadlines or producing commissions. This practice dates back to the days when I was at college doing my City and Guilds course. My tutor would always drive the message home not to have long spells without doing any work - it's so hard to get back into creative mode after a spell out. I also found this to be true having experienced it first hand when, during the course, after working under a lot of pressure for a prolonged spell, I decided that when the summer vacation arrived I was going to have eight weeks of chilling and relaxing and no way was I going to touch a paint brush or needle and thread again and wow did I suffer when I got back to college. It took weeks to get the creative juices flowing again and it threw me behind so much that I then had to work twice as hard to catch up  -  LESSON LEARNED !!