Sunday, May 23, 2010

The F Word: Fiber

My semi-solo show opened on Friday and more than 175 people came to our reception.
Rossi and I collaborated on two huge pieces measuring 72" high by 76"wide and these were hung in the front of the gallery so these were the first pieces seen when people walked thrugh the front door.

Our show was all about fiber -- my pieces were made from fabric and thread and Roxanne's pieces were made from hand-made paper. Even though our studios are next to each other and we visit each other all the time, we worked separately and didn't know how it s all going to come together in the end but we got many comments about how well our work complimented each other's. Surprise!

For the pieces we collaborated on, we chose a black and white color scheme. Here are photos of the two large pieces.

This one shows the piece on "my" side of the gallery.

This picture shows the other piece hanging on Roxanne's side of the gallery.

This picture shows some of my other pieces.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dream Rocket Project

There's an artist in Alabama named Jennifer Marsh who founded the International Fiber Collaborative in 2007. She's a woman with BIG ideas. Her first project was covering a gas station with fiber panels.

Gas Station Project

Her next project was creating a tree with more than 30,000 fiber leaves (I contributed 10 leaves).

Completed Tree Daytime

And now, she wants to cover a Saturn Rocket with more than 8,000 2' x 2' fiber panels.

So I made one and here it is:

There are several themes participating artists can choose from. I chose Space.

Here's what I wrote about my inspiration:

I will never forget sitting in front of our TV and watching man land on the moon. It was a dream come true. Ever since, I have been fascinated with space. My dream is that when we finally meet other intelligent species in outer space, that they can teach us how to live in peace on our own planet and with others in the universe.

Here's what I wrote about the panel:

This panel was made from a photograph taken by the Hubble Telescope of the Orion Nebula, M42, NGC 1976. I downloaded a copyright-free photo and sent it Spoonflower a company that specializes in printing photos on fabric. I tiled and mirrored the image so it fit onto one yard of fabric. I then selected a 24 inch square of the fabric, layered it with fusible fleece and a cotton backing and machine quilted all three layers together. I added some Swarovski crystals to evoke the shining stars and finished the edges with rattail binding.

Fun Fact

If you turn this piece upside down, you will see a picture of an alien!

Visit this website to sign up and participate!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rusting Fabric

Last summer, I fell in love with rusting fabric. Unfortunately, I live in a very clean city and no matter where I looked, I couldn't find any rusted objects. So I actually ended up buying my first rusted objects online. Imagine!

Now, my garage is full of plates, nails, horse shoes, gears, metal sheets, you name it, I have it! I experimented with white and colored fabric and decided a combination of these gave me a great palate to work with. Not only did I love the surprising results each time, but using this fabric in my art quilts also gave me great ideas for enhancing the marks with machine quilting.

Here's how I rust fabric. (I do this outdoors because of the smell).

Mix 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar into a spray bottle. I wrap the fabric with the rusted objects and spray until it's soaking wet. Cover with plastic and let it sit for 24 hours. If it dries out, spray with more mixture. Unwrap the fabric and if you like it, it's done! If not, re-wrap with different objects, spray and wait another 24 hours. you can keep doing this until you get the affect you are looking for.

When it is just right, put the fabric into a bucket of water and add 1/2 c salt and let it sit for an hour or so and then wash the fabric with soap & water in your washing machine. I like to let it air dry or I use an iron to get rid of the wrinkles.

Two of the art quilts I made from this fabric were featured in American Quilter Magazine in January 2010. Here are the two quilts that were featured. This one is called Universe.

This one is Earth & Sky.

I was thrilled to have Earth & Sky selected for the Rust-Tex Collection curated by Lois Jarvis. It was awarded Honorable Mention for design. This show will be traveling worldwide over the next year, starting in Chicago at the Spring International Quilt Festival.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Working Small

I envy my friends who work in other mediums than fiber. It seems like it takes me many more hours to complete a piece than a watercolorist or acrylic painter. I was looking over my "inventory" of work I have completed over the last several years and only 10-12 medium to large works per year.

But last year, I realized I could create a lot more work if I limited myself to 12" squares. By doing that, I found I could experiment more and if it didn't work I could throw it out without feeling bad about all the work I put into it! I also realized that these "small works" could be studies for larger works.

Here's an example.

When SAQA issued a call for entry to "Art Meets Science" I immediately thought of doing a piece about the Swine Flu. I went to the Center for Disease Control and found a microscopic photo of the virus. Here's what it looks like.

Kind of beautiful! I printed off several copies of this image on white fabric and started to think about what I wanted to say.

This is in the fall of 2009 and everyone was worried about this potential epidemic. Being in the low-risk group (too old!) I wasn't even thinking about getting vaccinated so I was more
worried about a public panic than getting sick.

I wanted to make a piece that would be beautiful and interesting but when people saw what it was, they would back away with fright. So I decided to show one of the swine flu cells in the center of a four petri dished, show how these cells are multiplying at a great rate and then have tentacles overflowing in a meandering pattern to show how this virus will reach everywhere. Scary right? Here's the piece I made for the show.

It's called "H1N1".

But while it was hanging on my design wall, I got another idea. Why not make it benign -- just a part of nature.

So I made a 12" x 12" piece called "Swine Flu Flowers". Here it is.

I used it as a study for a larger piece which I also made for the contest. This is called "Swine Flu Garden".
I am happy to say that both pieces were juried into this show which will have its debut in Birmingham, England in August of 2010. I am donating the 12" piece to the SAQA Auction to raise money for their organization.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Jumping Ahead

I've decided writing my history is just too boring and uninspiring so I'm just going to start writing about whatever comes to mind and tonight, I'm going to talk about two shows I saw tonight: Connecting Threads is at the Longmont Museum and Stitch.Design.Art is at the Old Firehouse Art Center, also in Longmont, CO. Both are wonderful exhibitions of cutting edge fiber art.

I have a piece in both shows.

Here is the one hanging in the Front Range Contemporary Quilt show at the Longmont Museum. (yes, this is a picture of me too.)

Here is my piece at the Stitch.Design.Art show:

This is the piece in the SAQA Stitch.Design.Art show and shows my current work. I am in the midst of doing a series of deconstructed silk screen prints (aka Kerr Grabrowski) combined with surface design techniques (aka Jane Dunnewold) and my own freehand machine stitching.

And I'm loving it. The process and the results.

Deidre Adams said to me "when you find your passion, the work just flows." and she was right. I have so many ideas right now, I can hardly stop working.

I finished two new pieces in less than two weeks -- unheard of in fiber art! But, my semi-solo show is coming up in May 2010 so I still have a lot of work to do.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Entering Juried Shows

Getting your name out to the world is important so one way to do that is to enter shows where your art is juried -- not judged. This is an important distinction. Especially in the world of quilts.

As in every industry, there is a tier of juried shows from small, local ones to the big national shows where getting in is tantamount of making your career. The mother of all shows is Quilt National, a biennial event featuring the best of the best, closely followed by Quilt Visions, another biennial event in the alternate years. There many are other prestigious art quilt shows including Quilts=Art=Quilts, Fiber Arts International, Art Quilts Lowell, Art Quilt Elements as well as the many national and international exhibits sponsored by SAQA.

Of course, I knew nothing about any of these shows when I started entering them in 2006. Perhaps that is why I entered so many in the beginning, thinking "its all about the process -- not the result"! I just wanted to see if I could get in. That year, I entered 4 local juried shows and 1 non-juried but judged show. I got into all of the shows and won a 2nd place ribbon. I thought to myself -- good start! This is easy!

So now I have to tell you the story of the first show I was juried into. It was sponsored by the local art quilt group I joined -- FRCQ and was held in Steamboat Springs, CO -- about a 3-1/2 hour drive from Denver. I was so thrilled I told my husband we had to drive to Steamboat and rent a condo for two days so I could attend the opening and see my piece hung with all the other pieces in the show.

When I arrived at the gallery and saw all the other pieces, I hoped the floor would just swallow me up and I could disappear. My piece was the absolute worst piece in the show. Honestly. To this day, I have no idea how it was chosen -- perhaps because the juror liked orange and it was the only orange quilt submitted.

Here's a picture of this piece. It's called Slings and Arrows. I thought this was fabulous when I made it. I simply choose a colorful background and fused on top, all the discarded pieces from another one quilt I was working on (hate to waste anything!) and voila! A piece of art!

What I didn't think about was composition (where IS that focal point, anyway?), craftsmanship (yes, NOTHING is set in a straight line), or color theory (what WAS I thinking???)

The worst part was yet to come.

At the opening reception, the artists had to stand in front of their pieces and speak about them. My headache started to get worse. I tried to hide behind other people, hoping they would never get to my piece. And then I started listening to what the artists were saying. I started to hear "art speak" and knew I had nothing interesting to say about my work. I also started to think I had a lot to learn.

I don't remember much from that awful night except when it came to my turn, I mumbled something about working in orange since no one like that color but Bronco fans, getting lots of strange (pitiful) looks and leaving the reception feeling like I was the worst quilt artist in the world.

And it cost us $500 for the weekend! Think of all the fabric and thread I could have purchased for my stash!

But it was a lesson well learned. First of all, I learned quite early that getting into a show does NOT mean you are a good artist. I also learned that if I took this seriously, I would have to begin learning my trade and spending a lot of time in the art world. I learned I needed to acquire the vocabulary of an artist and understand line, marks, meaning, color, and composition. I also learned that I needed to improve my techniques!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Next 2-3 Years

I can see from my last post (was it really August???) that I've bogged down on my story and so I will cover the next several years quickly so I can get to what i really want to write about -- being a studio artist.

People are always asking me how I got from not owning a sewing machine, to being featured in books and magazines within 3 years. Here's my secret. I approached learning how to be an art quilter by following the same process I used learning to be a business professional -- understand the industry and learn from the experts. I researched who were the leading art quilters in the country, where did they hang out (SAQA), where did they teach (too many to mention but Art Quilt Tahoe, Alegre Retreat, Asilomar, Quilting by the Lake, Quilt Surface Design, Hudson River Valley Art Workshops come to mind), and what techniques were they teaching. I was fortunate to attend several workshops and learned from Susan Shie, Cas Holmes, Mickey Lawler, Patty Hawkins, Leslie Gabrielse, Susan Brooks, and Heather Thomas.

I also did some local research to find out what was happening in Colorado and found the Front Range Contemporary Quilter's group. This group of 250 members included some of the leading art quilters in the country. Lucky me! I volunteered to run some meetings and soon, was in charge of workshops. When you volunteer, you get a chance to know everyone and make your own mark on organizations. This has been, by far, the best investment of my time and energy.

Subscribing to a ton of magazines gave me a feel for what people were talking about, what techniques were being tried, and what suppliers were selling. Here are some of my favorites:

Joining a "critique group" seemed required so I joined one that ended up too far away for me to actively participate. I was invited to join another group in Denver and that suited my needs perfectly. The group is comprised of art quilters who have been involved in their art for more than 15-20 years so they bring a sense of history to our meetings. Their comments, while generally kind, are also to the point -- something to be cherished in the world of being "politically correct". Honesty is just what you need to get better at your art.

And, the last part of this beginning journey is to enter national competitions. Putting your work out for everyone to see (and judge!) is not easy and this will be the topic of my next posting.