Art Labs – August 2021

Friday I took eight quilts and 12 wall art pieces to Parrsboro to show at the Art Labs Gallery. I knew it was a shared exhibition with two women who do rug hooking – but I had been told most of their pieces would be stand-on-the-floor works – laundry baskets, chairs, stools… Well, they were, but several were “hung” which cut my showing space in half. I was able to hang 5 quilts and 4 wall art pieces. A disappointment because the wall art pieces I’d chosen showed the evolution of my “printed on fabric” appliqué technique – the pieces all had people in them which I wanted to showcase.

At Five Islands; Wind Waiting

The most recent piece with one of the earlier pieces. I’m still very fond of the mood of these three guys at Fox River wishing the wind would moderate so we could launch our paragliders.

Escher Quilt

This is the piece you see from the doorway – it’s straight ahead of you as you walk into the gallery space. At that distance you see the 3D illusion clearly.

Diamonds

This quilt also is striking when you see it hung. The shaded border, the asymmetry of the piece, the colour movement are all apparent.

Skyline #1
Skyline #2
Skyline #3

I forgot to take a photo showing the three Skyline quilts hanging side by each on the wall. They make a strong triptych which was my intention when I created these pieces.

Into The Future

Not for sale, but it’s one of my stronger pieces using the fabric photo appliqué technique. I was so lucky that the sunlight on the children blended so well with the setting I put them in – on Spring Garden Road beside the Public Gardens – the photo of the children was taken at the Toronto Zoo!

On Deck

These were all the pieces I had room to hang. I returned home with three quilts and nine wall art pieces. I could have crammed in a few more small hangings but when I stood back I decided less was more.

The show is on until August 19 when I go back to Parrsboro to take down the show and return the art to my closet. I need an agent in Toronto or New York – anybody got connections to someone who might be interested in representing a textile artist in a market that would understand the art and the work required to create it?

Purple Poppies

This is the current state of my wall art piece. The purple poppies are pale. I could remove this fused appliqué, print new poppies, darken them with permanent markers, or work with the current appliqué and see whether I can intensify the colour by thread painting. I don’t know which to do yet, which is why I have done nothing, so far. Stopped. Dead.

Immobilized, I spent two days this past week reading “Prediction: A Pandemic Story” by Michael Lewis. While about our current pandemic, he grounds his narrative (as he always does) in presenting the stories of people who were reading the tea leaves based on what they were able to deduce about what happened in the 1918 flu outbreak, the asian flu I experienced in 1957, the impact of SARS in 2003, the swine flu epidemic that didn’t quite happen in 2009, which predisposed them to know another uncontrollable pandemic was inevitable and the steps they began taking to mitigate the anticipated disaster.

I read the book in two days – on my phone (I prefer reading on my iPhone rather than holding a book in my hands). I had a headache from so much reading, but I couldn’t stop.

Having lived through the past 18 months we know about the US government ineptitude but the reality as seen through the experiences of his central “characters” is compelling. “If only…” I kept saying to myself; so many people could have avoided becoming seriously ill, the numbers of deaths could have been so much lower, the impact on the economy would have been so much smaller.

In some ways, it’s too soon to write the book – we have not come to any end point in the pandemic, and Lewis’ “resolution” at the end is weak – of necessity because the pandemic is NOT over. Who knows when the disease will finally die down globally because until it does the virus will continue spreading and mutating.

Here’s another review of the book from the Irish times. But I recommend you read the book – I found it gripping.

I have also begun an online course offered by The World Bank: The Hidden Side of Energy Access: Understanding Clean Cooking. Who knew that 4 billion (yup, billion) people lack access to modern clean cooking options that allow them to cook conveniently, reliably, safely, and affordably. The problem is using non-clean energy sources impacts health, gender, climate, and environment. The costs of pollution from cooking with wood and charcoal, in other words, using unclean cooking sources, are enormous.

Not something I’ve ever thought about. I pull some stuff from my refrigerator, prepare it, cook it, without giving it a second thought. So I decided I’d learn something useful from the course. Well, I am, but oh, is it frustrating. This has got to be the most poorly designed learning experience I’ve ever tried. A number of years ago I participated in a World Bank course on climate change which was very engaging. Interesting reading, video, discussion. I gave the course quite a bit of time and learned some useful things. Here, each module consists of a collection of powerpoint slides with a gazillion acronyms (which I can’t remember – even MECS – modern energy cooking services – is stretching my brain. Then there’s MTF – the multi-tier framework for cooking – a tool for assessing the affordability, safety, convenience and availability for cooking). The course is all about memorizing stuff. Even the “discussion” forums are about regurgitating the dense content from the slides. The navigation is completely unintuitive, I’m forever fighting to find my way from one part of a module to the next.

Fortunately, there is a report on which the course is based. Here is a link to Access To Modern Energy Cooking Services. In our current climate crisis it’s probably useful to know something about this particular global factor which in some ways affects us, too.

I may quickly work through the remaining three modules, foregoing the exercises, quizzes and “discussion” to get an idea of the arguments. But I think I will take time to read the report – I have little patience for watching powerpoint slides – I’m a reader – I make sense through reading.

There are just not enough hours in a day to keep up with everything – the political news, learn new stuff, be creative….

I have to decide what to do with the Purple Poppies and then just get on with it!

Making Progress

I started the morning by cutting a gazillion 2″ squares of fabric from the many strips and scraps I’d collected which I hoped would help me fill in the background on the wall art piece. I needed a lot (although I didn’t count what I needed but I’m guessing it must have been close to 140 squares (the panel is 16 X 12 = 192).

Then I began laying them out, a few at a time, trying to create some kind of flow to the background.

As you can see the pieces are pinned to the fusible interfacing – I didn’t want to fuse them until I was certain I had the colour flowing as I wanted it – nothing jarring. I still have to walk around it some more before I start pressing the squares in place. Likely on the weekend I’ll get to that.

I didn’t plan it, but I like is the way the dark fills in a slightly off-centred “U” shaped space at the bottom, and when the panel is sewn together and the blocks end up at 1 1/2″ the light colours should blend reasonably well.

So how do I plan to fill the empty space? With a couple of California poppies!

The image looks small but its height is 14″ – the panel will finish at 18″ X 24″ (it’s currently 24″ X 32″) so the flowers in relation to the background will be a better fit. I would print this image on fabric (using my inkjet printer), then fussy cut it carefully before fusing it to the background, and thread painting it in place.

There is another possibility I’ve been working on – I’ve created a machine embroidery of 4 yellow poppies which are also ~ 14″ in height which I could embroider in position directly on the background:

I printed it out, roughly cut it, to see how it would look on the background

Impossible to tell which might be best until I get the background sewn. The current limitation I have is my largest hoop will create an embroidery 360mm in height (just over 14″). If I decide to use the embroidery, I may have to rework it by splitting it in two in order to enlarge it – not sure how well that will go but if the 14″ is too small it’s something I may have to try.

Next step is to fuse the squares in place, then construct the background panel.

At Five Islands – Completed

I finally finished the wall art piece yesterday. It took some time to do the careful hand stitching – to tack down the mitred corners, and the hidden binding and hanging sleeve on the back of the piece. It’s now done.

At Five Islands – Completed

The piece turned out to be a bit smaller than I was originally thinking about it: 21.5″ x 18.5″ – but it’s still a good size. Now to find a place to hang it in my place until it goes into the Art Labs exhibition during the summer.

It’s hard to tell from the photo that the grunge blue framing strengthens the blues of the sky and water and brings out the greens of the bank in front of Ruby. If you click on the photo you’ll be able to see the thread painting more clearly.

So this project is now completed. On to something else. Yesterday I brought out the bag with the diamonds pieces and put it on my cutting board. I want to see if I can salvage that project in some way before scrapping it permanently and moving on to something else. I still need to make two more quilts and some other small pieces before July – there’s time, I’m not panicked and if I don’t make my goal, I do have a closet full of finished quilts I can bring back for the show. I’d just like to get more new projects in the works.

Finally Making Headway

I finally started stitching this piece yesterday. I filled in the sky and worked on the mud flat with blues/greys and brown/rusts (to really see what I’ve done, click on the image).

Under Construction

Today I worked on the land in the distance (still have the headland to work on). Then started in on the vegetation on the bank. First I had to modify some elaborate floral stitches on my machine to get the feel of the taller plants on the edge, next the long dried grass; after that the shorter dried grass next to the gravel (which I haven’t done anything to yet).

I’ve begun stitching the dark lines on the sun-bleached bench; I still have more to do there – just not sure which elements to try bringing out.

The gravel will present a bit of a challenge – I’ll probably use wandering straight stitching with a mixture of lighter and darker thread.

The most difficult element will be Ruby herself – I want to bring in the construction elements of her jacket – cuffs, the yoke and pockets, the collar. I think I’m just going to outline her hair, her face, and her hand, and leave the fine facial detail alone!

Maybe a bit more later this afternoon; if not, I’ll work on the piece again tomorrow.

What’s sticking out in the photo is my attempt to bring a bit of grey cloud to the upper right corner of the piece. I’m seriously thinking about taking out the grey thread and replacing it with the paler blue I used for the rest of the sky. The darker stitching seems a distraction. Retracing the stitching will have to be done v-e-r-y slowly so I can reuse the needle holes from the stitching I’ve taken out! Fingers crossed that it’s doable.

Grey Thread Removed From Sky

I did it – took out the grey stitching in the sky. Looks better. Check on the closeup (click on the image) and you’ll see the needle holes I now have to use as I stitch with lighter blue thread!

At Five Islands IV

I wasn’t going to work on the Five Islands piece today but after lunch I found myself at the cutting table tidying up and before I knew it, I was picking up the small scraps of fabric and adding fusible web to each piece, then cutting them into shapes, next fusing them in place. And of course the next step was to peel the plastic backing from the photo printed on fabric, adding fusible web, fussy cutting out Ruby and the bench and pressing them into place.

Appliqué Assembled

I moved on to selecting thread to use for the thread painting. While I was at it, I added a tiny bit of darkening to the sky with fabric pastels and pressing it to set the colours into the fabric. I might add a bit more grey in the upper right corner of the sky but not until I’ve done a bit of stitching, first.

Selecting Thread

The next step is always the challenging moment – up to this point I can always remove a bit of fabric and try something else, but once I start stitching, the fabric selection is set. In addition, I really only get one go at the stitching because after I’ve picked out the thread there are needle holes (subtle but nevertheless visible). So, it’s take a deep breath and gently hit the foot pedal.

I want to do a lot of thread painting on the mud flats – browns into the blue fabric, blues/greys into the browns to obscure the fabric edges (If I can). Actually, I’ll start with the sky and work my way down to the bottom of the piece, including quite a bit on the bench and the gravel it’s sitting on to blend the two together a bit more.

The last element will be a signature in the bottom left corner in a soft blue/grey so it can be seen but doesn’t jump out – that addition always scares me because I can end up ruining the piece after I’ve put in a lot of work. So far I’ve had no disasters signing a piece but you just never know when the embroidery machine won’t quite cooperate!

Tomorrow I have a “Quilting In The Hoop” class at Sew With Vision (a Pfaff/Husqvarna dealership nearby) for most of the day. However, my calendar is completely free Thursday….

Opening in Parrsboro 2020

Yesterday I drove to Parrsboro (2 hours from home) to hang 7 quilts and 15 wall art pieces in the Art Lab Studios & Gallery.


This is the sixth summer I’ve been privileged to show my creations in the gallery. It’s a small gallery in a small town but it’s becoming known for it’s displays of high quality art. The five resident artists are themselves fine artists who paint, make pottery, fashion textile pieces, along with a roster of other well known local artists who both show and do workshops at the Studios during the summer.

The space is perfect for hanging my lap quilts and other smaller pieces.

When we’re finished hanging the show I look around and think about the amount of work I’ve done in a year – the range of style, the intensity of colour, and the technical improvement the show reveals.

A number of pieces were created as projects for classes I was intending to teach (except they were cancelled due to COVID-19).

Kaleidoscope Table Runners

Other pieces were inspired by fabric in my stash – they called out for me to do something with them.

Then there were the two quilts I started work on at the sewing retreat last fall that turned into quite striking throws.

Grey called out to me this year – last year it was turquoise.

I think I want to return before the show is taken down to photograph everything once more – it’s very difficult for me to hang the quilts, in particular, and photograph them at home – when they’re on the wall, like this, I am able to capture each piece without distortion.

The quilts and wall art will be on display until August 20, 2020.

If you get a chance, the Art Lab Studios & Gallery is a wonderful destination for a day trip from Halifax – leave around 10am, stop at the Masstown Market in Masstown (they make great sugar donuts if you get there early enough). In Parrsboro you can have lunch at either the BlackRock Cafe or what locals call “The Pier” (now called, I think, Harbourview Restaurant), then visit the gallery, schmooze Main Street, and have a leisurely drive back home either through Joggins/Amherst or back through Truro. If you stop for dinner in Truro you can expect to be back home around 8pm. Even fun on a cloudy day.

Bargello Table Runner IV

I finally finished the 57″ x 16″ Bargello table runner last evening. It took me several hours over two days to stitch the whole thing in the ditch – that was because I was changing thread colour and having to stitch on the zig-zag.

Bargello Table Runner – Finished

I thought about quilting the piece in the hoop for quite a while – doing an edge-to-edge style of design along the length – but I decided it would detract from the bargello detail. In this case, I also stitched through the backing, which meant I needed to add a binding. I chose a 1/4″ binding on the front but 3/4″ hand stitched down on the back.

The original Bargello piece is also finished – it’s the inverse of the longer table runner with a dark, rather than the light, centre.

Bargello Table Runner I

I’m teaching a class in two weeks on how to improvise a Bargello block and how to think about layout for a table or bed runner, a cushion, a wall hanging, or a quilt. The point will be to understand how the quilting version is derived from wool on canvas work and uses the same math principles.

For the class, I will need to set up another Bargello piece so I can demonstrate forming the tube stitched from 10 strips, cutting, and laying out the Bargello array. Better think about that in the next day or two.

Here are instructions for this table runner –  Download the PDF

Finishing Wall Art

I’ve finally got around to creating instructions for adding borders and piping to a textile wall art panel as well as instructions for hidden bindings.

It took some time because I had forgotten to take photos as I added the borders etc. to the Iris panel last week.

This morning I took a small panel I’d made quite some time ago, removed the backing, and added borders & piping and a hidden binding – and I took pictures along the way to illustrate the process! Finally. I did it because the panel wasn’t really finished and I needed something already assembled (instead of taking the time to construct something new) so I could take photographs as I did the work.

If you’re interested here are links to the PDFs

Iris

Yesterday, I enlarged and printed both the iris and its leaves on fabric then applied some Steam-a-Seam2 Lite (fusible web) to the back so the iris could be fused to the watercolour panel background. Last evening I fussy cut the iris, the bud, and the leaves.

Complete except for hidden binding

This morning I fused the appliqué elements to the panel, then thread painted them, taking care to edge stitch everything so the appliqué won’t lift  over time.

Iris – Thread Painting

Because the appliqué elements are rather small they didn’t want a great deal of stitching but I did want to work in a bit of shading on the leaves and on the flower – not so much that I obscured the shading within the appliqué.

I added a signature along the right side, then applied three border sections – first a narrow inner binding of natural raw silk, then small dotted green piping, last a 3″ purple grunge outer border.

All that’s left to do is add the hidden binding (I do have a small amount of purple grunge left but I’ll see if I can pick up 1/2m more because it’s a very useful colour to have on hand). Once the bindings are attached, I’ll insert a muslin backing and hand stitch the bindings in place on the back.

I will leave the piece as it is – while I can still lift the border to reveal the inner border construction. That will allow me to show the gals how I align the narrow border, and piping as I explain how I do it.