September 23, 2016

A new project

I will be taking a week-long workshop with Claire Benn in early October on "Lines and Rows: Rhythm and Repetition."  Claire describes the aim of the workshop:  "to focus in on the power of the repetitive mark, building lines and rows to create cloth that has rhythm and simplicity."  This will be a chance to followup on work I did with Claire in 2014 (which led to my Accident II quilt) and also work I did with Dorothy Caldwell in 2013.  Claire asked participants to prepare ahead in various ways, including laying out 100 of the same thing in lines or a grid, looking for pattern everywhere, and narrowing one's focus to a small number of types of marks/shapes of interest.  I've spent the last few weeks, since the close of my show, working on this, and look forward to developing ideas further at the workshop.  I have a humble goal in mind, which is to make fabric that I can then turn into table napkins.  I've long made napkins for our own use at home, and also as gifts for others, but have made them from commercial fabrics. A few years ago, I made some from Marcia Derse's beautiful fabric, which is commercially produced but based on her hand-dyed/painted fabric.  I have been wanting to come up with some designs that would work for making my own fabric, and Claire's workshop gives me that opportunity.

I made the design at the top by cutting up black construction paper.  The idea for the design came from a drawing by Karl Benjamin:

I am entranced by this drawing--something very appealing to me about the piled up block shapes.  I pulled out one column of the blocks, changed them from white to black, and increased the space between the blocks.  Multiplying the columns, changing the order in some columns:

This is still very close to the Benjamin drawing--too close for me to feel comfortable using it--so I decided to try the same idea with triangles, and came up with the design at the top of the post, which I will enjoy playing with more.  I'll also do some trials with wedge-shapes.  Here's a postcard I made some years ago, but never sent because I like it too much: 

I got another interesting shape by manipulating a photograph in Photoshop.  Here's the photo, which was a collection of 100 blossoms from a chestnut tree:

Through cropping and various manipulations, I came up with this:

I collected 100 examples of several things, but my favorite was pine needles.  Here are a few different arrangements of 100 needles.  So much potential here for beautiful line drawings!  Another option is to turn one or more of the photos into a thermofax screen, which could be used directly for printing.  (You can double-click on photos to see them larger.)

Another direction is to work from the lovely lines of the piece below, made by free-motion stitching with a variegated thread that changed in color from black to white--hence the "missing" spaces in the design.  This was a sample I did in a workshop with Paula Kovarik in early August. Which reminds me that I'm long overdue on a post about that workshop!  As soon as I got home from that, I had to set to work setting up my show, and forgot to get back to it.

And some other line drawings of elements that interest me.  

Stylized from a drawing of clover I did some years ago

I like drawing cups, which make me think of friends talking over cups of tea.

Drawn recently at a local park.  The top one was a line of very fuzzy strand-like blossoms on a branch.

And these are designs I sometimes use in quilting.  The second one from the right (squares) particularly interests me.

So, I think I'll have plenty to work with at the workshop. . .  

I will eventually be working in color rather than black and white.  Here are some sample colors I dyed up last week:

September 1, 2016

Studio time

My show was up for six days after the opening.  The gallery is in a multi-purpose building (a couple of studios and one business), so people are in and out, but no one is attending in the gallery.  I didn't want to leave the quilts unattended, so I set up a makeshift studio in a side area of the gallery and worked there from 12:00-5:00 each day.  It was interesting to see what it was like to dedicate five straight hours to studio time.  Since my regular studio is in my home, I tend to move back and forth from one kind of activity to another. The study with my computer is just across the hall from the studio, and all too often, I go in to check e-mail, and then get sucked into responding, following up on things, going to other links, etc.  Being at the gallery gave me a sense of what it would be like to have a separate studio, at a distance from home.  I still checked e-mail from time to time on my phone, but I don't like typing or web-surfing on the phone, so it really was just a quick occasional check.  It was instructive to see how much more sewing I got done than if I'd been at home.  I spent most of the time making bookmarks from the remains of several quilts in the show (photo above).  I also planned out dimensions and cutting directions for two quilts I have lined up to do.  Very productive! But I also found that five hours devoted to quilting didn't leave me enough time to do the other things I want/need to be doing during the day, in the relaxed way that I have been able to do them since retiring from academic work.

The show came down early this week, and I've been enjoying several days back at home.  It's a relief to be done with the show, which took months of preparation.  Having seen the benefit of uninterrupted hours in the studio, I'm spending more uninterrupted time there--not as much as five hours at a time, but more than before, and staying away from side-trips to the computer when it's studio time.

And the opening went very well!  Here's a shot of the crowd just before my talk, and you can see a few of the quilts, too.

August 14, 2016

An exhibit of my work

If you are nearby, I hope you'll be able to come to my exhibit, which opens on Saturday, August 20.  I am also making a webpage for the show, which I'll complete once the opening is past.  The site will include photos and descriptions/explanations of the quilts, as well as my talk and a video of my husband David's recital.  I'll post the URL when the site is ready.

July 4, 2016

Series complete

Back in mid-May, after having finished "Holiness," I wrote a post about the development of a final piece about stones, one that would focus on the shape of stones.  I spent the month after that doing many trials with fabric and thread, some small, some large.  Nothing developed that gave me the feeling, "Yes, this is it!"  One day, I realized that I felt OK with not doing another large piece about stones.  

The series of quilts I've been making for the last twelve years is complete—this work that has been about the death of my son Jeremy and what it is like to live with loss. I have put out into the world, as best I can, what there has been in me to say.  There are no more angles to cover.  This doesn't mean that my deep sense of loss is over, just that I have said what I can about it.

I will be having a show of this work in August.  My time between now and then will be taken up with details for preparing for the show.  I don't know what direction my work will take after this.  I'll be taking two week-long workshops in the next several months, and I expect these will give me the chance to explore new paths.  One workshop is with Paula Kovarik and the other is with Claire Benn.

The show will be August 20-26 at The Box, in Galesburg, Illinois; the opening will be 4:00-6:00 p.m. on August 20.  I will post more about the show when the time gets closer.

May 18, 2016

Web posting of Generation Q article about my work

About a year ago, Abby Glassenberg wrote an article for Generation Q magazine about my quilt "Self-Portrait, Year 2: Beneath the Surface."  She recently re-published the article on her blog, which makes it accessible to people who didn't see it in the magazine.  Thanks Abby!  Here's the link.  There are already some thoughtful comments after the body of her post.

One bit of further explanation about the last paragraph of the article, which has me posing the question "Am I a mother with [my son] gone?" It was actually online commenters who raised the question, and Abby wanted to know my response.  The text on the Self-Portrait quilt states, "I AM A WOMAN WHOSE CHILD IS DEAD."  Among the many online comments I received about the quilt was one thread that said something like:  "Why did you say 'woman' instead of 'mother'?  You're still a mother!" I think people felt I was being too hard on myself--that I shouldn't deprive myself of this cherished title, and that I would somehow always be a mother.  But the fact is this:  I was once a mother, a role that was very important to me.  But with my only child dead, I am no longer a mother.  When deciding on the text of the quilt, I didn't consciously make a choice between "woman" and "mother"; it simply didn't occur to me to write the word "mother."  Being a mother has certainly had a lasting impact on me, and I have continued to use what I learned in my eighteen years as a mother--with my students, when I was still teaching; with other children I interact with.  But that's very different from being a mother.  I am grateful I had that opportunity in my life, I am grateful that Jeremy was the child in my life, and, now that loss has replaced motherhood as a central experience, I do my best to continue a life that sustains caring relationships with others, even while they are very different from that between a mother and her child.

May 12, 2016

Change of direction

Back in early March, I started working on a final quilt in my series about loss, one that would focus on stones, and would include some kind of imagery of stones; see this post on the design, and then two more posts on dyeing, discharge, and stitching trials for the stones, here and here.   Then I had a chance to get some productive critique of the work when meeting with quilting friends in Chicago, and the work has gone through significant change since then.  I realized that I wasn't really interested in the kind of rectangular patchwork background that I had been working on, but rather on the stones themselves--they needed to be the central focus.  When something isn't working, it's a relief to figure out what's wrong!  Here's where my thoughts have been going since. . .

About ten years ago, I made a small piece, with the light gray area the size and shape of the headstone on my son's grave.  The idea behind the piece had to do with the Jewish practice of leaving a stone on the headstone of a loved one when visiting the grave.  I thought I would quilt stones into the narrow, dark gray band.  

Around the time I was working on this piece (2007), my friend Mary Beth came for a visit to Galesburg, and we went out to the cemetery.  Mary Beth did a couple of small, rough sketches, thinking about adding in stones, and maybe cropping the composition.  

I was moved by the drawings, but also was more drawn to abstraction.  I thought that even quilting in stones would detract from the abstraction of the composition.  Yet the piece felt incomplete without some gesture of stones, and I never proceeded further with it.  It's been folded up and put away for a long time. 

But now, having finished the piece on "Holiness," in which I aimed to capture something of the essense/nature of the stones placed on graves, I realize that I want to confront the stones "face to face."  In "Holiness," I worked with color.  For the final piece, I will come back to shape.  I took out the small gray/blue piece and decided the first thing to do would be to increase the size, and to also draw stones placed on top of the grave, so going back to Mary Beth's drawings.  I knew the stones would need to be larger than the small ones I actually put on the grave, but I wanted to keep them about the size one could still hold in one's hand--somehow that seemed important to me.  So, starting with stones that size, the whole composition ended up about 36 x 60.  Here's the sketch on newsprint:

But even though this is about twice as large as the gray/blue piece, it still seemed too small to me.  I made a leap and started sketching larger stones.   

Finally, I drew with the sweep of my arm, rather than my hand.  I'm down to two stones; each of these is about 36" wide.  It feels like I'm going in the right direction.  I like the idea of limiting it to just two stones, with the suggestion of more of the headstone to the right and below.  (There will be more space at the bottom--I'm not sure how much.)  It feels like David and me, visiting Jeremy's grave. 

Next steps:

  • work further on the shapes of the stones
  • do stitching trials for the stones--I'm thinking these will be "drawn" with a single line of stitches.  But I could switch gears and do these as large appliquéd shapes.
  • decide whether the top of the headstone will be indicated by a seamline between two slightly different colored fabrics (a light and light-medium gray), or whether it will just be a stitched line
  • decide on fabric (I've dyed light gray samples of a number of different fabrics; I'm thinking of using linen, either for the whole thing, or for the bottom piece if seamed.)  

And some influences: the work of Karine Léger (so beautiful) and this by Ellsworth Kelly.

April 8, 2016

More trials

I did more trials this past week, collected below:

Some are pretty awful (like the large piece done with deconstructed screen printing in top left); others are better.

stamps with Cleanline resist on gray cloth

Thiox discharge on gray cloth
Using stones themselves as a resist, suggested to me by Beth Berman.  I love the results, but not sure they're right for this particular piece.

Flour paste resist on white cloth with black thickened dye 
Stitching trials (done a while back in a workshop with Dorothy Caldwell
After all these trials, maybe I'll go back to stitching.  Still thinking. . .