September 27, 2016

Workshop with Paula Kovarik

This summer, I had the good fortune to take a week-long workshop with Paula Kovarik at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.  The workshop was called "Follow the Thread," and was aimed at teaching a process of generating quilting lines that are not just the standard repetitions, but that originate from an idea or inspiration, with the line developing from there, and then changing as the thread leads one on.  I deeply admire Paula's work, and leapt at the chance to do a workshop with her.  (You can see other posts of mine about Paula's work here.) Paula's own work is often "whole cloth"--that is, the cloth is one piece of fabric or simply pieced, and the focus of the work is in the stitching. I don't imagine myself ever doing whole-cloth pieces, but was confident I could still learn a lot from Paula. I had two goals for the workshop.  The first was simply to further develop my skills and confidence in machine quilting.  This is the aspect of quilting that I feel the least comfortable with.  I'd like to do it more confidently, and would like to build it more into the overall design of a work.  And I'd like to enjoy it more!  The second goal was to work further with floral motifs based on the line drawings I began doing a few years ago.  I wanted to work on simplifying the drawings further so that I could use them in repeated designs.  I had been thinking of using the designs as motifs in printing fabric, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to try them out as stitching designs along the way.  I made a great deal of progress towards both goals during the week, inspired not only by Paula, but by the awesome work of other students in the workshop.

The photo at the top is probably my favorite piece from the workshop, stitching based on a drawing of perennial salvia.  You can see the whole thing (about 15" square) in the bottom left below, along with other exercises.  (Double-click to enlarge.)

Here's another sample where three of the designs are worked off a drawing of a branch of ash leaves.  The upper right corner is a trial of the variegated black-to-white thread that Paula had us try.  It provides an easy way to build in serendipity, as the white disappears if sewing on white fabric, or the black if sewing on black (as in the set just below the white sampler).

And a final example, with the panel on the right a riff on early drawings of clover, a couple of other permutations of the ash leaves, and some simple squiggles just for fun.

I expect to spend some time developing one or more of these motifs in my workshop next week with Claire Benn.  But if they don't find a home on printed fabric, I may well incorporate them into some quilting. . .

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.