Category: Being an Artist

Interesting challenge

I don’t know about where you live, but the heat of the summer is getting to me. Living in the southeastern US, I realize it isn’t the heat, but the humidity that saps my energy. I look out the window and see the beautiful sunshine, but sadly realize it’s best for me to stay inside.

In a way, this really isn’t a bad thing. I can definitely find things to do. Today I am finishing up a commission project I’ve been working on. When I’m finished writing you, I’ll sit down with needle and thread to do some slow-stitching and binge watching. It’s time to stitch down the facing, then add the sleeve and label.

I work in layers when I create my art quilts. I start with the fabric design (in this example it’s a photo printed on fabric) and then I add my free-motion embroidery (aka thread painting). Then it’s time for batting, backing and quilting. Doing things in this order allows me to cover up some of the ugliness that happens with the embroidery work. It also keeps the thread-painted areas from becoming too flat.

Sometimes the quilting stitches on the back of a quilt are equally as interesting as the design on the front. I keep threatening myself to deliberately create a piece backwards so when it hangs, the design side faces the wall. That would be an interesting challenge.

Wave “hi” when you see me!

Back in early April I spent a couple days in Cleveland to film 4 segments of Quilting Arts TV. I’ve never been filmed for TV… well unless you count that one time I was interviewed before an art exhibit and was super nervous or that other time I was on Bozo’s Circus. Filming QATV was a completely new and exciting adventure.

Before we filmed, I took a couple months to prep the materials so that everything I demonstrated made sense and put in hours of practicing/rehearsing at home so I could feel confident when I spoke. Before I knew it I was in Cleveland on this world-wind trip to film 4 different segments for 4 different episodes.

I’ve been asked how long did it take to film? Each segment of the show runs about 12 minutes and it took just about that much time to film. Unless, something unusual happened, the segment was filmed in one-take. None of this “CUT! Let’s do that again!” coming from the director.  If there was a need to stop, we re-Prepping Cheesecloth samplesgrouped and started back where we left off. Now you know that what you see is what we did pretty-much in real time. So the actual filming of all 4 segments only took about 1/2 a day on stage. [note: If you ever meet me in person, feel free to ask me about the 1-time we stopped filming and the other time I really flubbed, but we kept filming.]

April seems so long ago and I’ve been anxiously waiting to see the new season. I’m in the first episode (2401) and I’ve heard from people around the country who’ve already seen it. This week it is finally being aired on PBS UNC-TV Chapel Hill, NC channel 4. If you get UNC-TV Chapel Hill, the season opener will be tomorrow: Thursday, August 15, 2019 at 4pm. If you don’t get UNC-TV Chapel Hill, you’ll have to check your channel guide. All PBS stations independently carry and broadcast the show, so times will vary across the country.

During episode 2401 you’ll see how I create and use painted cheesecloth in my naturescape art quilts. You’ll also see me on episode 2408 and 2412. The 4th segment I filmed will air next season. If you watch any of them, don’t forget to wave “hi” when you see me!

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See me on Quilting Arts TV Season 2400 (episodes 2401, 2408 & 2412).
Check your local PBS station for dates and times —
or program your DVR —
or purchase the series as a digital download

 

Don’t give up!

One of a Kind GalleryLife has been busy the last 4 weeks. In my last post, I shared my experience with Sacred Threads. After I returned from that, I prepared for a “Meet the Artist” event at a local gallery where my work is on commission. It was fun being part of this event, meeting new people and seeing friends.

Pillow ArtBefore this event at One of a Kind Gallery, I decided I needed to do something a little different. I have all these great photos of my artwork, but once the art sells the artwork is gone. I decided to use an on-demand print service to print my art on fabric, then make it into something else. I decided to start with pillows and totebags. It appears I’m onto something. In the 1 week they were there, I already sold several pieces. I was also asked by another gallery if they could to carry these printed items. So, it’s time to make another order of fabric. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep up with this and get some up on my Etsy shop.

Then while all this was happening, I entered my “Sounds of the Trumpet” quilt into the Fine Arts Festival exhibit at Arts Council of Moore County’s Campbell House Galleries. 2nd PlaceWhen you enter this exhibit, you assign your artwork to 1 of 5 categories. There isn’t a fiber art or textile category, so I assigned it to mixed-media. Since I use other things besides fabric and thread, I definitely fall into that category.

Prior to the exhibit opening, a juror selects the 1st, 2nd, 3rd place winners and honorable mentions. This year the juror was Bob Rankin, a well respected abstract painter from Raleigh, NC. I enter these exhibits knowing that there’s some heavy competition and that as a textile artist the juror may or may not appreciate my media. (As some of you already know, textile art is often looked at as “craft,” not fine art.)

Juror StatementSo there I was running around one afternoon, when I received a call from the Arts Council. I do volunteer work for them, so it’s not unusual that someone calls me. What was unusual was the message, I had earned 2nd place in the Mixed Media category. This is a major milestone for me. It was the first time that I won an award in a non-textile exhibit.

I share these wins in my life, not brag…but to encourage. To be honest, I occasionally question why I’m doing what I do and I know other people sometimes feel the same way. I create because making art fills a void in my soul. I have to do it, otherwise it pents up inside. Stepping out publicly to share your art takes guts. When it’s a flop, I think “what can I do different?” When it’s a success, I think “how can I build on this?” I always have to step back, evaluate, and learn from the process. And, I encourage you to do the same. If it’s in your soul, don’t give up!

 

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See me on Quilting Arts TV Season 2400 (episodes 2401, 2408 & 2412).
Check your local PBS station for dates and times — or program your DVR.

Found your voice

It’s been a little while since my artwork has hung in a group exhibit. This past week I got to see “Summer Sunshine” hanging in the Sacred Threads exhibit in Herndon, Va. This biennial exhibit will hang until July 28 and it’s the second time my work has been in this exhibit. Sacred Threads is not just about the artwork; it’s about the story the art tells. “The show does not emphasize any particular religion or theology but conveys the spirituality, healing and inspirational messages that transcend all people. “

I spent Saturday afternoon looking at the quilts and reading as many stories as I could. Some were heart breaking, some uplifting and other’s just made me smile. It gives me great pride to have my art hang along side all the others. These experiences connect me with new people and old friends. And, I’m definitely inspired by all the artwork I see. (Note: If you can’t go to the exhibit, you can purchase a catalog with the stories and pictures of the quilts at Sacred Threads online store  )

While walking the exhibit, I heard someone tell their friend “One way to become a better artist is not only to make art, but to view art.” I agree! If you don’t know what looks or feels good to you, how can you create it? Art is more than just following some technique, it’s reaching into your soul to tell your story. If you haven’t already found that place in your heart, I encourage you to look at art, spend time exploring/seeing the details of everyday life, and find time to play with techniques. You’ll discover that place where it all clicks and you’ll know when you found your voice.

 

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See me on Quilting Arts TV Season 2400 (episodes 2401, 2408 & 2412).
Check your local PBS station for dates and times — or program your DVR.

I’ll see you later!

Why do we make art? I’ve always had a creative drive. I’ve dabbled in multiple processes, but I’m usually drawn to textiles; sewing, crochet, knitting, embroidery and, of course, quilting. When I started quilting, I worked in a “traditional” style, piecing blocks together to make bed or lap quilts. What do you do with them? I  gave them to family and friends who I hoped would enjoy them. Eventually everyone I knew had something I made and I started to develop a stock pile.

Around this same time, I became frustrated with myself. I walked away from quilting and started to pursue mixed media art. You may have heard this story and my later decision to return to quilting using mixed media techniques (also known as surface design).

Well, that’s not the entire story. Around this same time, I also was involved with a small, local gallery where I sold some of my art. I realized, I could keep creating as much as I wanted and re-home it by selling it. I didn’t have to keep everything I made. If I don’t sell or exhibit my art, it stays locked in a room away from light, usually rolled up in a protective cloth bag. It’s safe and sound, but out of sight.

Art is meant to be seen. Storing it away forever, doesn’t make sense to me. I’d rather it be loved, appreciated and SEEN! That’s another reason why I sell my artwork. Of course, some pieces mean more to me than others and there is a part of me that’s sad to see them go. It’s like saying good-bye to an good friend, “I’ll see you later (maybe).” Sadly, sometimes life happens and you never see that friend again. Same is true with saying good-bye to your art. Some creatives never want to let go and keep everything they make. I’m not one of those people. It has to go, so I have room for new pieces.

So…why do I make art? Because I love the process and I love when someone loves my work enough to buy it. When I make art, it’s only meant to be mine for a short time. It really belongs to someone else who will see it in their home every day and who will smile when they see it, because they love it. It is my mission as an artist to find that special someone.

Yesterday, “Silenced” found that special place. Today it is in the home of someone I know who appreciates art, adores birds, and understands the plight of extinction. They love this art quilt and understand its deeper meaning without needing me to explain it. Today, I’m happy to say, “goodbye, I’ll see you later!”

This summer

My summer is turning out to be busier than expected. Isn’t that always the case? Creatively, I’m working on a couple commission pieces, but they’re not something I want to share right now. So today I decided to show you a piece I created a couple years ago. This sunflower and butterfly artquilt was created for a collaborative art challenge. I was given the choice of several photographs to recreate using my own artistic style. I chose a fabulous photo of a butterfly and I used it to draw a pattern for my thread-painted rendition. (To see the full quilt check out my gallery page or click here. Note: this quilt is available for sale)

I started by tracing the basic shapes onto black fabric (using transfer paper). Then, using my sewing machine, I filled in the shapes with coordinating colored thread. In the examples, you can see how I filled in the traced lines (click on image to see a larger view). This technique is commonly referred to as “thread painting.” When I was finished, the entire butterfly shape was filled with thread. I then cut it out of the black fabric and appliqued it to the sunflower quilt.

When people hear the term “thread painting,” there’s often confusion. They think I’m somehow painting the thread. Actually, I’m using the thread to paint! A better way to explain the technique is to call the technique “free-motion embroidery” using a sewing machine.

Most people are familiar with hand embroidery, where you stitch a design using needle and embroidery floss. Free-motion embroidery is basically the same thing using a sewing machine. Instead of moving the needle across the fabric, I’m freely moving the fabric under the machine’s needle.

Thread painting is something I really enjoy doing. I also enjoy teaching the technique. What are you working on this summer?

If you want to learn more about my classes or upcoming art exhibits, you can join my newsletter or follow me on Facebook.

 


See my artwork:
Sacred Threads
July 11-28, 2019
Artist Experience weekend: July 18-22, 2019
Floris United Methodist Church
13600 Frying Pan Road
Herndon, VA 20171
www.sacredthreadsquilts.com

May take me awhile

I’m still catching up on things and doing more “business” oriented tasks than artwork. Any creative work I’m doing I’m categorizing as exploration, experimentation, and/or slow stitching. This is a great way to stay creative when real production work isn’t happening. All you need is a little bit of down time to make progress.

Last year I started following a number of artists on Instagram who do slow stitching. I became instantly fascinated by this boro (reuse/mend) trend. I always hated hand stitching because I don’t have the patience to do it neatly. As, I looked at these creations my heart started craving it. My sewing skills started at an young age (under 10), when my mom encouraged me to do hand work; embroidery, crochet, hand sewing, etc. So this “new” vintage style really connects with me on a personal level. This stuff isn’t all that new to me.

They call it slow stitching because it’s just that…using your hands to sew, which, compared to a sewing machine, is a slow method. With the boro style sewing, you tend to use long running stitches to hold fabrics together. This type of stitching can really get you in a meditative/mindful state which is good for your mental health.

One of my more recent slow-stitch projects is about complete. I used indigo fabrics and pearl cotton thread to assemble this little bag that’s a perfect size for a cell phone, keys and a small wallet. It would make a nice little purse, but it needs a strap.  I tried buying some nice cording, but I don’t have many options around here and couldn’t find much online. I did have some wool yarn that would look perfect as a strap and I have a lucet tool that makes a hand-braided cord. So I popped open a Youtube video this morning to learn how to work this simple tool and I’m ready to go. Stay tuned, this may take me awhile …

 


See my artwork:
Sacred Threads
July 11-28, 2019
Artist Experience weekend: July 18-22, 2019
Floris United Methodist Church
13600 Frying Pan Road
Herndon, VA 20171
www.sacredthreadsquilts.com

The “Sól” in you

This month I’m working on class prep. Creating new art is, sadly, low on my priority list. But, this gives me an opportunity to reminisce a little. It’s always good to look back every once in awhile so you can appreciate how far you’ve come.

I made this sunflower quilt, “Sól” about 7 years ago. When I see it, I feel like it was just last year. Time moves quickly.

The piece was made as a challenge. Photographs were collected from the local photo club and local artists selected one to re-create using their own inspiration. By design, “Sól” turned out very similar to the photo. The biggest exception is that I used textiles to create my 3-dimensional image.

This was a fun piece to create. The sepals (green parts) were fuzzy on the photo and I wanted to recreate a similar effect. I decided to use green felted wool and added some fuzzy white roving (wool) using needle felting. The petals of the sunflower where stitched on fabric, cut out and then sprayed with a fabric stiffener product. I let them dry so they would stay wrinkly (and a bit stiff) when I sewed them to the background.

I am still very happy with this final rendition. This piece is now in the private collection of a friend. He saw it during the show and had to have it. I’m honored to have participated in this challenge and to know the piece is cherished in my friend’s home. Some of my best art has been created by challenges like this. Have you ever participated in an art challenge? They can bring out the “Sól” in you!


See my artwork:
Sacred Threads
July 11-28, 2019
Artist Experience weekend: July 18-22, 2019
Floris United Methodist Church
13600 Frying Pan Road
Herndon, VA 20171
www.sacredthreadsquilts.com

Challenge yourself

I really do have a plan for this summer, but I’m experimenting a little too. I spent so much time last year creating new artwork, that my brain is kind of in a fog about what to make next. Part of my problem, I don’t have any external deadlines to drive me with a purpose. I’ve been muddling along a little bit and experimenting with some new techniques. It’s always a good idea to have creative play time when you’re feeling a little stuck.

I entered a call for entry last week for “Eye Contact: creating a connection.” It’s an art installation that will be part of the Sacred Threads exhibit July 11-28 in Herndon, VA. The call for entry asked to for a 23″ x 5″ art piece that features human eyes. This was a little bit of a stretch for me, but I had a photo of myself looking into a mirror and thought it would be an appropriate subject for this exhibit. When I saw myself in the mirror, I noticed the lights that framed the mirror reflected in my eyes making my pupils look square. It fascinated me, so I snapped a selfie and rendered it into this art quilt.

It is a bit different from what I normally do and that’s OK. In order to grow as an artist, you must continue to challenge yourself.

 


See my artwork:
Sacred Threads
July 11-28, 2019
Artist Experience weekend: July 18-22, 2019
Floris United Methodist Church
13600 Frying Pan Road
Herndon, VA 20171
www.sacredthreadsquilts.com

Act out a little more

SJSAI’ve been feeling uneasy lately. There’s a lot of changes happening these days, I sometimes feel disoriented. My problem is I’m not sure how to deal with the things that are bothering me. Life frequently is out of our control. Do you speak-up, act out, or just move on?

I was faced with some challenges growing up, but overall I can’t complain. My life has been generally good and I’ve never been without basic needs (food, water or shelter). I was recently reminded, not everyone is so fortunate.

In April, I was at the SAQA conference in San Jose, California. One of the presentations was given by members of the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA). The founder of SJSA is Sara Trail. Ironically, I was a technical editor for Sara’s first book she wrote when she was 13 (“Sew with Sara”). I felt immediately connected to Sara because I knew her from the book. As she spoke, I became even more connected by what she had to say.

Sara and the other presenters discussed their involvement in SJSA and how they empowered youth to express their concerns through textile art. These young people are living daily with social injustice that I never experienced. And, they are making quilt blocks and art quilts that visually tell the stories of what’s bothering them.

Many of these issues fire me up and that’s where I struggle on dealing with it all. Do I just move on and ignore it, speak-up and take the heat, or act out and become visible? What impresses me about SJSA is that the youth are acting out in a very creative and visible ways. Art has always been a method to make a statement.

During the meeting, I found out that SJSA was looking for experienced embroiders to stitch down the fabric pieces in the quilt  blocks the youth created. I volunteered and was quickly sent my first project (pictured here). Unfortunately, I didn’t receive the young person’s intended message, but I did see a powerful statement of strength. Through this inspiration, maybe it’s time act out a little more.