Thursday, November 29, 2012

Home - Oct. BJP Finished

What does home mean to you?
A building, a place where you live?

If you ask a poet, "What is home?"
They might reply
"A home protects and nourishes the soul."

My home, the physical place where we live,
is a funky, crowded, owner-built, cabin-like place
on a fantastic rock-moss-tree chunk of land.
I love living here.

My home, the spiritual place surrounding my soul,
is safe and supportive.
I love living here.

Home is my place of belonging,
the key to creativity, the dragonfly of the moment,
the heart of love, the flowers of beauty, the tree of life,
the kitty of whimsy, the pathway to inner peace,
the amber of courage, and the rabbit of gentle grace.

The Bead Journal Project, for me this year, is a place to explore some of the blessings in my life. So far I have beaded Vision, Freedom, Hands, Nature, and now Home. They are small pieces, only the size of an artist's trading card - 2.5 inches wide x 3.5 inches high. To get the detail, I have to use mostly size 15 beads. Not a problem... I love those little guys!

Home has a lot of texture, and thus took quite a while to bead. I guess that's my excuse for being behind. I don't think I'll be finishing November's piece before the month is over. Ha... I haven't started it yet... except I know the blessing is Family.

>*<    >*<    >*<    >*<    >*<

Don't miss this... only one more month to see this fabulous exhibition of quilts made by men!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

If At First You Don't Succeed.... BJP & Quilt Camp Disaster

Last weekend was Quilt Camp! Four  days to stitch, uninterrupted, meals provided, no chores... oh joy!

For the first couple of hours I worked on making hexie blocks for my Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt... fun, easy, known territory.

Charged, I got out my quilt top, the one pieced together with the 12 blocks I beaded for the Bead Journal Project in 2011. Each of the beaded Xs represents a relationship, a crossing of my pathway with the pathway of some other person or thing, especially one that was important to me during the month when I made the block.  Here's how it looks. For now, just note the blocks and the way they are assembled on the quilt top.

I had this idea of hand-quilting in diamond (or square-on-point) shapes to match the blocks. It wasn't easy. I worked for about 30 hours (2 whole days and into the wee hours of three nights) to do this quilting. The more I did, the less I liked it.

The idea of it is OK, I think... it ties all the blocks together, suggesting the interconnected pathways of my life. The whole quilt and the blocks look OK from a distance. But I'm pretty sure viewers would want to get close to see the beading. Looking at it closely, the hand-quilting starts to compete with the beading. Which to view? Which is important? Obviously, I wanted the beading to show, because that's the point (and the visual journey) of the quilt.

It didn't look too bad on the lighter colored blocks.

But on the darker colored blocks, the quilting stitches were really distracting.

Sad to say, I didn't realize how bad it was until I was nearly complete (with only one block to go). When the light bulb finally came on, I realized I had to take it all out. All 30 hours of work.  OK, so what to do? How to quilt this thing?

Well, my quilt/beading buddy, Lunnette, happened to bring a HUGE stash of thread with her. Stitch-in-the-ditch with a matching color of thread! Still hand-quilted, but not something that shows much at all.  Now you can see the beading!

In the picture below, you can see I've re-quilted the top and right-hand blocks. Is this better?  Is it worth the time to re-do it?  I think so! (Only 10 blocks to go...)

Lessons learned:
  1. Pay more attention to gut feelings that something isn't working.
  2. Be ready to abandon a plan that isn't working.
  3. Trust that a better solution will come along.
  4. It's only time.
By the way, if you're interested in joining the 2013 Bead Journal Project, here's a link to information and registration!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Please Don't Miss This 5-Star Show!

From political to folk,
from traditional to way outside the box,
from peaceful to wild,
from beads to bicycle chain,
from whimsy to satire,
the current show at the La Conner Quilt Museum
has it all...
they're all created by men!

Forty-one incredible quilts, created by 15 highly-creative men from the USA, Holland, and Japan. I tell you, their quilts make me swoon, give me heart palpitations. The show runs until December 30. Please, don't miss it! The What-Where-When details are at the end of this post. Let's get to the quilts!

At the most out-of-the-box end of the scale is John Lefelhocz of Athens, OH, who uses the oddest materials to make quilts: sugar wrappers, match sticks, roof flashing, breakfast cereal, plastic bugs, and other assorted materials. If your mind says, "Impossible," take a look below.

Ms. Ing Links by John Lefelhocz, 59" x 35"
The pattern/design on this quilt is created by hundreds of painted bicycle-chain links sewn to the quilt top with beads. Do you get the humor of the title? (Hint: run the Ms. and Ing together.) All 5 of his exhibited quilts are examples of how much fun an artist can have mixing word-play and imagery. Each is a puzzle of wit, challenging the viewer to find all the jokes and meaning it contains.

Near the other end of the scale is David Taylor, of Steamboat Springs, CO, whose meticulously pieced and machine-quilted works are realistic without being "like a photograph." They are fiber and thread, yet somehow give us a good whiff of movement, dimensionality, and emotions found in real life.

Marmalade's First Snow by David Taylor, 47" x 35"

Marmalade's First Snow by David Taylor, detail

Up Up and Away by David Taylor, 42" x 52"

See what I mean by realistic, but not photographic? Can you feel the magic of looking up at a hot air balloon rising in the early morning air, and sense Marmalade's hesitation and intense curiosity about the snow? Wonderful!

Quilts by Shawn Quinlan, of Pittsburgh, PA, tell stories, calling attention to things that aren't quite right in the world around us, adding layers of humor and satire to the expected warmth of a fabric quilt. Being a tree-lover and a person who is a little ill-at-ease with Christmas, the quilt below really hits the mark with me. See the circular and carpenter's saws?

Homage to the Discarded Christmas Trees by Shawn Quinlan, 46" x 33"

Homage to the Discarded Christmas Trees by Shawn Quinlan, detail

Homage to the Discarded Christmas Trees by Shawn Quinlan, detail

Here's another of Shawn's quilts (4 in the show), one that expresses a number of complex thoughts about the political scene in our country's capitol. Check Shawn's website for revealing detail shots.

As My Daddy Always Told Me, "At Least the Democrats Will Throw You a Bone" by Shawn Quinlan, 48" x 29"

Next, let's look at two amazing works by Leslie Gabrielse, of the Netherlands, quilts that show just how expressive and painterly applique and hand stitched embellishments can be! Having spent 10 years of my life folk dancing, I am particularly drawn to the one below, the largest quilt in the show.

Portuguese Folkloric Dancers by Leslie Gabrielse, 118" x 92"

Portuguese Folkloric Dancers by Leslie Gabrielse, detail

Portuguese Folkloric Dancers by Leslie Gabrielse, detail
I am fascinated by the way his work reminds me of collage art, of layering papers, stamps, and paints. Of the four quilts by Leslie in the show, my second favorite is a portrait he did as a commission.

Karlee Abbott, by Leslie Gabrielse
While we're on the subject of portraits, how do you like this portrait of President Obama by Michael Cummings of New York, NY?

President Obama by Michael Cummings, 50" x 72"
Of this quilt, Michael says, "I wanted to play with his racial makeup....his father was black and mother white...that dictated my choice of colors in construction of the quilt. After that choice, I wanted to have some thought-provoking statements by famous people...statements that addressed issues in our society related to both democracy and racism. Issues that are alive and well today and that President Obama has to encounter as leader of our country." Of course, because of Micheal's excellent visual-communication skills, I knew all that, just from looking at the quilt.

Here's another one by Michael, this time a portrait of a place, obviously one familiar to him.

Mecklenburg County, NC by Michael Cummings, 72" x 96"

Mecklenburg County, NC by Michael Cummings, detail

My brother, Thom Atkins, found himself in very good company in this show, and his four beaded quilts add a wonderful contrasting element, a sparkle, to the mix. The two quilts below are my favorites among the four of his pieces included in the show.

The Man in the Window by Thom Atkins, 30" x 34"

The Ravens of Angel's Crest by Thom Atkins, 35" x 51"

Eight other quilt artists, who happen to be men, join those mentioned above, adding their own unique process and style to the mix. The whole, to my mind, is a luscious salad, its flavors delightfully complex and memorable.

But before I get to the show info, remember the teaser photo at the beginning of the post? That picture is a detail from the most jaw-dropping quilt I have ever seen. I mean EVER. And that includes all the thousands of quilts I've seen while teaching at various quilt festivals. It is THE most incredible quilt I've seen in my whole life. This isn't the greatest picture, but please click on it to see it full-sized.

Flow of the Seasons by Shingo Nakano, 87" x 80"

Shingo Nakano, of Japan, cut out over 16,000 little hexagon shapes from hundreds of different fabrics and hand-stitched them together to make double-ringed flower shapes. Arranging the pieced flowers so their colors suggested the flow of the seasons, he then hand-stitched them all together. Each hexagon is about as big as your thumbnail. Hand-quilting around each petal, completes this masterpiece of hand work.

Flow of the Seasons by Shingo Nakano, Summer-Fall

Flow of the Seasons by Shingo Nakano, Winter-Spring
If you follow my blog, you know I've been working on a hexie quilt (see here). Having already spent hundreds of hours on it, I can almost imagine the time, measured in years, it took to make this quilt. But the beautiful hand-work is not its only virtue. The fabrics and arrangement of colors send me into a place of inner calm, of beauty, of spiritual fulfillment. Thank you, Shingo Nakano for allowing us this glimpse into your inner world. If you like this quilt, wait until you go to La Conner. There are two hexie quilts by Nakano in the show! The second is even larger, with about 18,000 hexies. While you are there, take your time to study these two quilts; you won't see anything to compare for a long, long time.

What: Material Men: Innovation and the Art of Quilt Making
When: October 11 - December 30, 2012
Where: La Conner Quilt and Textile Museum in La Conner, WA
Hours: Wednesday - Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm; Monday & Tuesday by appointment
Exhibit Curators: Geoff Hamada and Kathleen Kok

Link to further exhibit information
Link to museum website

Have I been clear enough? Go see this show! Make time; find the moola; just do it!