Thursday, December 26, 2013

New online class with Academy of Quilting starts Jan 2.....

As many of you know, Quilt University came to an end last year with the sudden and very sad death of Carol Miller, who had had the brilliant idea of affordable online classes many years ago. Over the years she built up a terrific roster of classes (to say nothing of the teachers!) and a very loyal and talented following of students.

One of the teachers, Ruth Arbee, decided to take over Quilt University and she has added many of the QU teachers and classes to her ongoing Academy of Quilting.  I opted to transfer my three QU classes to Ruth's website as I feel her goals are very similar to those of Carol Miller.

 The three classes are: Dyeing to Design, Inspired to Design and Working in Series.  Ruth will run one of these pretty much every month of the year - the first one up is Dyeing to Design.   This is an interesting class, I think, because it covers a lot of ground.  Working from the basic elements of value, color, texture, shape and line I show how each one of these in turn can be created on fabric.  Then I discuss the pros and cons of designing with that particular element as the focus.  Each week, therefore, you learn how to create a particular type of surface design, and then how to use that element to make a small quilt.

If you've never dyed fabric before, never done arashi (tie-dye) or screen printed with dye, this is a marvelous introductory survey of these techniques.  I make sure that everything is Very Safe, Very Simple and as low-tech as possible.  So, if you're interested, please check out the Academy of Quilting website before Jan 2!  And I'm happy to answer any questions - there's an email link at the top right of the page...just under my picture.

I still have a few copies of my new book: Working in a Series available if you're interested in a personally dedicated signed copy!!  I can do a check ($35) or Paypal ($36) (ask me to send you a request for $), and will ship immediately USPS priority mail - which is Very Quick!!  alas the shipping costs outside of the USA are prohibitive.

Let's hope for an amazingly creative New Year for us all!!!  And Plenty of Time in which to be creative!  Oh how I wish they had time for sale!!!
So, if you have been, thanks for reading!!!  Elizabeth

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My new book is almost here....

scroll down to the end for a chance at a free copy.....

I just learned that several copies of my new book, Working in a Series, are on their way to me  and should be here any day.  One book published in a year is pretty exciting - two is truly amazing!
When C and T asked me to send them a proposal I wasn't sure which idea to present, so I offered them two different ideas and was very surprised when they accepted both of them.

My earlier book, Inspired to Design, came out in the Spring and is a step by step guide on how to make an art quilt: from being inspired by a photograph or a painting or an idea, through sketching and designing, critiquing the design, blocking out the quilt and constructing and finishing it.

The second book goes much further and covers three main areas: developing a series, coming up with designs in many different ways and gaining a fuller and more useful understanding of the principles of good design.

  My aim was to help the reader focus in on one idea, one stream of thought that could lead to a whole series of quilts, a body of work.  So many people have said to me that they're tired of learning a technique, making one quilt in that technique, then going to another workshop, learning a different technique and making one quilt like that.   They feel they have no voice - or perhaps too many voices!!   Furthermore all the pundits talk about developing one's own particular style, one having a "body of work" but they don't really tell you just how to do that.

I think that when you've taken many different workshops and learned a lot of different techniques, you are more than ready to develop your own style.  Some people are lucky and seem to fall into a particular style right from the start - I think it's often because they did discover that working a series of quilts was they way to do it.  In this book, I explain just how and when to decide what kind of series is right for you. There are also lots of examples of quilt series both from myself and from a number of well known, well respected artists.

In the second part of the book, I look at the many ways you can come up with designs - all the different tools you can use and methods for seeing, grasping and working from inspiration.

The third part of the book addresses something that seems to be lacking in many quilt books and magazines and that is a thoughtful look at design considerations.  Many books just rattle off a short list of Es and Ps and consider the task done.  Rote learning of a few labels just won't cut it though!!  You really need to know why, what, when and how!!     Some of the topics I address are:  achieving the illusion of depth, evaluating your designs, choosing strong color schemes and the use of simultaneous contrast,  using rhythms and repetition to make a piece more interesting, the use of value patterns (chiaroscuro, or Notan), and landscape composition rules.  I also discuss the problems in working directly from photographs, how to bring energy into your work, the use of positive and negative space and visual pathways.  I have tried, however, not to be didactic and boring - but rather to take a look at some of these ideas in a way that is helpful to the quiltmaker in particular.

As before if you're interested in purchasing a copy of the book - you can order one directly from me - please email me   for details.  I'd be happy to put one in Priority Mail for you - and sign it!!
Or you can support your local quilt shop by asking them to order it.  Amazon will have it in January.

So, if you have been, thanks for reading!  And thank you to everyone who signed up for my 2014 master class (or to be on the 2015 waiting list) (see last blog)!!  I'm looking forward to getting started with this new idea!    Elizabeth

PS if the embedded link above doesn't work (it looks a bit funky on my screen) - then there's a link just below my picture on the top right, and also one from my website:

ALSO C&T are Giving Away an e copy of the book on their blog:

check it out!!

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Master Class for Art Quilters…

  I recently gave a very successful and enjoyable workshop to a lovely group of ladies
  who asked me if I'd come up with some way that they could continue to work with me online.
  With their help, I put together the following idea.  I'm throwing this private online class open to all because I
  think it will be a lot more interesting to have a good mix of folks!         So, let me know
  if you would be interested in joining us.   Start date will be January 1st! 
  Please email me to if you have any questions.

 Limited Access: This year long class would be on a private paid subscription email/blog limited to 10 minimum, 15 maximum. Beyond 15 there would be a wait list. On signing up, I’ll give you the blog address and allow  access from your email address.  I will send you the exercises as an email attachment, and you will send me your images as email attachments, I will upload and critique those images on the private blog.

Description: The aim of the class is to help you strengthen your art quilt skills and it builds on my other online and actual workshops. We won’t be addressing construction methods, it’s assumed you are already comfortable with a method that works well for you.  Around the first of each month, I’ll describe an “exploration” or directed exercise – nothing as limited as a specific project, but rather a set of instructions for a design (or designs), each month exploring a different concept, issue, topic or idea. You can make a quilt any size.  I won’t restrict your imagination!  But it will be important to address the main issue to which the exercise relates.

Images: All should be jpegs, between  6” and  8” on the longest side, 72 dpi. Sent as an attachment to this dedicated address:

Focus issue or exploration (me): 1st of the month sent directly to you as an email attachment.
Designs (you): 10th of the month. Send me up to 3 designs, choose your best!
When I receive all the designs, I’ll put them together into a blog with a critique for each design. I’ll number them and won’t use names! So feel free to be wild!
Blocked out Quilt (you) 20th of the month: You’ll have ten days to block out the design you choose i.e. cut out the pieces and pin them together so that I can clearly see how the piece looks, but that alterations are possible.   When I receive the images, I’ll put them into a blog with a critique for each one.  No namesagain.
Finished Quilt(you) last day of the month: An image of the finished quilt will be due at the end of the month, and I’ll publish them on the blog and a short evaluation – not as long as the first two critiques…basically my overall impression and some things for you to ponder for your next piece.  And…on the first of the next month, my blog will describe the next exercise.

Some dates may vary a little due to my travels! And I do understand that life could get in the way of you working on an exploration some  months!!  So, it’s no problem if you can’t complete an exercise. If I don’t get an image from you by the specified date, I’ll assume it was one of  “those” months! 

Your Comments: Comments are great – and so helpful to everyone else. At any time you can go to the blog, view the images and comment!  You’re welcome to comment about a design, a quilt, my critique or anything!!  I’ll number the images so that reference will be easy.

Cost: $250…if not satisfied after first month…then I’ll return 90% to you.
After 30 days, though, no returns..I’m sorry but I could have had another person in your place…
Payable by check – email me and I’ll send you my address.  Outside the USA only, we can use Paypal. Please indicate your level of expertise…beginner, intermediate, advanced.

Commitment: I’m asking you to commit to a year. At the end of the year, if I decide to continue with the class for a second year, you would have the first opportunity to sign up.

Topics: Some of the topics I plan to cover in the explorations are: important areas in design, various art movements, guided designing, developing designs from photographs, how to look at and assess the design, strengths and weaknesses, finding and solving problems, tweaking the design at the blocked out stage, developing your own voice, creating from the inside, working with the elements of design, discovering ways of doing this, time management and goal development. In each lesson I plan to include a little art history or theory, and some suggested research, and guidelines for self critique.

If you have been, thanks for reading!  And don't forget to get in touch with any questions....Elizabeth 
PS re the photo:  no, it's not the Tardis! but it is a starting point...

WOW! the class is full already.....I'm happy to put you onto a waiting list for 2015 however, if you want to get in touch - thank you to everyone who wrote straight away!   
Please send me your actual email - if you just write in the comments, I don't get your email address!
click this   for my email address!  Thank you!!  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Home for the Winter .....

...with the best class of the year being last week on Cape Cod...
We saw lots of "wonderful things"!  The ladies in the class worked hard for five days, producing many abstract designs and making at least one, often two and occasionally three (!) of them!

Here are some of the results:

Sharon's sketch (on left) looked really good...
and here is the finished piece: 

 the additions of the little white lines brings it to life beautifully.....

Betty's piece if full of joi de vivre!!  Betty is one of the smartest and liveliest 83 yr olds I know and is an inspiration for all of us.

Karen's little quilt has a real air of mystery  - are these strange beings on another planet??  that's abstraction for you!

The armchair bicyclist....Linda is planning a series inspired by a lime green tricycle she saw in Italy...

Kathy is also a traveller, she worked from marvelous photos of Africa...the catch of fish being brought in at the end of the day and all the village inhabitants gathered....baskets on heads...I love the simplicity of this outline which conveys everything...a brilliant abstraction...

Linda G managed to completely block out 3 quilts as well as draw many designs...a previous teacher had warned her off having points in a quilt - so it was great to see her using points with aplomb!!!  You can use any shape, any colour, any length of stitch - don't ever let any teacher restrict you from your imagination!

and there were many more...but now I must look forward to converting this class into an online mode ...I had so much material I'm thinking the online class might even be in two parts.  But first, of course, to catch up with everything at home.  I do not know how the average quilt circuit teacher manages any kind of creative life of their own, or do anything else at all!  But I'm learning from Betty - the secret of successful old age: square dancing!  It's exercise, it's physical contact with others (hand holding is mandatory! as are hugs), it's social and it's cognitively challenging with any one of 100 or more class per minute being required of 8 people working in unison!!  And of course the quiet side of life - in the studio - in golden solitude, working with those five elusive elements....
So, if you have been, thanks for reading!   Happy Thanksgiving here in the United States!  Elizabeth

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Workshop in Cape Cod

A beautiful Fall morning for a start of a weeklong workshop on Abstract Art for Quiltmakers on Cape Cod....

And the designs begin to flow onto the display boards....

these ladies are wonderful - unlike those at a well known conference some years ago who complained because they weren't slashing into their fabric within minutes of the workshop beginning....these ladies really want to dig into getting lots and lots of ideas onto paper...and the ideas are multiplying!!

and now time for a nice cuppa tea...or maybe even a glass of guinness!!!!
more later...upon my return home..
If you have been, thanks for looking!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Visiting the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston: A versus R

Wow!! what a fabulous solo show at the ICA in Boston right now - Amy Sillman's One Lump or Two.  Though, I'm not quite sure where the sugar lumps came in because no one offered me a cup of tea!  However a very friendly guard did bring me a little stool I could carry around with me so I could sit and rest The Ankle between paintings.  ICA is a wonderful museum on an absolutely exceptional site - cantilevered over Boston Harbour with amazing views:
Amy Sillman is one of my favorite contemporary painters because she sits astride the gap between pure abstract and pure representationalism.  She also has a great sense of humour.  She published a letter on the internet some years ago (alas I cannot find the link, apologies) in which she said she had fallen out of love with A but really wasn't too sure about R either!  A being abstract work, R being representative work.

She wrote: 
"I never would have understood Process without A but I just feel like A’s really old friends are just WEIRD. And kind of pompous." 
Actually you see that in art quilt circles where the A crowd very definitely look down their noses at the R people!!

Sillman's paintings are so vibrant and full of meaning, there are forms and inferences there, you just can't quite make them out at first so you keep looking, and turning round for a quick glance....
Here's a typical example from the ICA show:

(and by the way you can photograph nearly all of the works without a guard leaping on you, though I did see one chap photograph a photo verboten work and the guard did the modern equivalent of ripping the film from his camera!!  I just sat there quietly on my little stool watching the Drama of the Forbidden Photo!)

As well as the colour and the mystery and the beautiful balance of shape and line, I really like the basic structure to which Sillman returns time and time again - a structure that balances a large quiet area against a much smaller busy one.  It's a great metaphor for life: periods of solitary contemplation versus joyful frenetic social activity.  Painters often have a favorite structure, a hidden order, that they use frequently and I think it becomes part of one's style and is one of the reasons you like/dislike a person's work.  It's very useful to become aware of it

As well as paintings there were lots of drawings and very witty diagrams - table settings for boring interminable dinner parties and meetings where all everyone has in common is mutual dislike or philosphers categorized (scroll down about a page and a half).

I did also try to see the John Singer Sargent watercolor show at the MFA - but the MFA is a much less friendly museum.  Hardly any guards to ask directions from, very misleading maps and masses of very aggressive people hogging the space in front of paintings with eye phones and eye pads and eye attitudes! It took me 45 minutes of searching to find the Sargent watercolors, stand in line and creep into an extremely crowded room - but oh! what little glowing jewels they are!  to paint something like that before you die, how glorious that would be!!  Well after all that excitement, I think it's time for a cuppa tea!  Off to put the kettle on!  Next week I'm back up to the cold dark north teaching a workshop on Abstract Art for Quiltmakers in Falmouth - you can be sure I'll be quoting Amy!

So, if you have been, thanks for reading.......Elizabeth

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Things to do when life gets in the way of Art!

As you know I teach quite a few classes online  (link and info on side bar)- which I've thoroughly enjoyed by the way - and frequently I hear from people - "Oh, I was unable to finish the course because Life Got In The Way".  Don't worry!  It happens to all of us, I battle it daily and in fact this last month for me has been crazy with a nasty ankle injury and two shows going on.  (I have 25 or 30 quilts at La Conner Quilt and Textile Museum in La Conner, WA and 6 at the Athens Academy Gallery (Athens GA).  Both shows up till the end of the year).  So I've also been trying to battle the life getting in the way problem and have come up with a few ideas - if you have more please do tell!!

Use your eyes to Really LOOK.  Even though you have no time to actually DO art, you can think about it as you drive to appointments, prepare meals for guests, sit in waiting rooms and clean the toilets.  After all look what Duchamp achieved looking at a toilet!  I love this "fountain" dress by the way based on Duchamp's inverted urinal.

Okay. I can hear you saying, what can I LOOK at?
  Let me count the ways  (Elizabeth Barrett Browning):

1.  Your eyes are open and you can see images, is there any juxtaposition of shapes that would make an interesting composition?
If you can hold up your hands in two L-shapes to frame the view. Try it now!!
2.  How about the shadows?  What's the light pattern like?
 Does the sunlight streaming in through the waiting room window make any intriguing designs.
3.  As you drive down to pick up someone after work, is the low light at the end of the day limning the chimneys or roofs of the buildings around you?  If you're driving through trees, notice the pattern of light and the sunlight makes the edges of the trees glow.
4. And while we're on trees, look really look at the trunk and the branches - are they really all one colour all the way round?
5.  Look at the light and color on that wall ahead of you.  Notice how it's never flat...there's always shading in one direction or another - and yet how often do we use a flat background colour when we make a quilt? Why?

Carry a little notebook or a piece of paper folded in your bag or pocket, with a small pencil.
 And always have a doodle pad by the phone for those endless "holds" - many artists have made great things from their doodles!!  It always amazes me how people can just sit staring into space!  Look at the wonderful drawings of Gego.   
You can improv with a pencil just as easily (actually more easily!) as you can with fabric and everyone loves improv!
If not doodling, then think of your favorite letter in the alphabet and make a little block unit based on it...from this little seed maybe a gorgeous flower will grow!

Use the internet as an art resource.  Of course this is totally addictive!!  Choose a topic that really fascinates you, say bumble bees and search for  "images of bumble bees".  Don't just look at the pretty pictures, but consider each one as a possible start for a quilt design.
Another great thing to do on the 'net is sharpen your critical skills by researching for horrible ghastly badly designed work!!!  Look at the winners at a major quilt festival and really critique them - don't just marvel at the dedicated work that went into them and think I could never do that!!

Read art books and read artists' biographies.  The more you know about the art world as a whole, and about life in art, the better equipped you are for making your own art.

TALK  Stuck in a conversation?  Don't discuss the weather or, even worse, ailments!!  Instead, ask the person what they think about art.  What is their favorite painting or why?  If you're with fellow quilters ask them about quilts they've seen that they always remember.

Stitch. Always have handy a little scrap of fabric and some thread, let the needle direct you!!  Actually you don't even have to look as you sew - that will loosen up your stitches!

Make a cup of tea! But as you make it consider the arrangement of the implements on the tea tray, can you improve it?  would the spoon in the sugar look better pointing in, or point out?  While you wait for the kettle to boil (or the microwave - yes some people actually do make tea in the microwave as unbelievable as it may seem!) crouch down a little so you're looking at the arrangement of objects from a different angle.

Do please comment with your ideas...and now I shall go and engage my guests in meaningful conversation while rearranging the breakfast table in a more harmonious way!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!   Elizabeth

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Looking for the abstract

As you know I’ve been studying abstract art, and there’s a lot more abstract photography than I realized.  Alfred Steiglitz (1864-1946) was one of the first photographers to work on abstract ideas with his “Equivalent” series.  He wanted to use a camera in the same way that the painters in the 1920s were painting – aiming for a freedom of expression and a new world view.  He made about 200 Equivalent photographs in the late 20s and early 30s – some of the very first abstract photographs ever made.  Well, abstract photos made deliberately that is!!!  I’m sure that sometimes they photographed their fingers holding the lens as I know I’ve done – later puzzling over the giant pink things blotting out half a landscape – probably where Philip Guston got the idea for some of his iconic shapes!
Most of Steiglitz’ Equivalent photos were of clouds – just clouds, no landscape, nothing even to show which way up he was.  I’ve always loved lying on the ground looking up at the clouds moving…preferably of course with a nice warm breeze and the sound of the ocean in the distance!

Here’s an early quilt of mine: Scud which was about lying on the floor under the skylights watching the clouds – if you’d like to pop round for a cuppa tea, we can lie there together!  You have to pick just the right kind of clouds though..
 Steiglitz said about his cloud photographs:

 “I know exactly what I have photographed.  I know I have done something that has never been done…I also know that there is more of the really abstract in some “representation” than in most of the dead representations of the so-called abstract so fashionable now”.

A perspicacious, important and thoughtful observation, and one to mark well.  Sometimes the best abstracts are those that begin with looking at something that is already there but looking in a different way.  Look around you!  You’ll see abstract compositions everywhere! Enjoy them – some are fleeting like the clouds, others are well recognized like the patterns of bare branches in winter, others are subtle (shadows on a wall).  But look at what Warhol and  John Singer Sargent did with shadows!  Why do we, as quilters, tend to go for rather predictable grid patterns, or slapdash lumps of corblimey dyesplatter artfully arranged rather than looking around us for the abstract in real life?  Let us all seek to do something that has never been done!

Well that’s a nice high minded goal!  Think I deserve a great cuppa tea for that one! 
What do you think?  Are you looking for the abstract?  Or do you seek a closer representation of reality? Please comment.
And, if you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth
PS It is with great sadness that I just read  that the painter Robert Genn who has inspired many of us twice weekly with his thoughtful newsletters has pancreatic cancer and has only a few months to live. His message to us all is: "For years I've been telling artists to do it now, not later". Thank you, Robert, for all you have given us over the years.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Importance of Being Titled

"What do you think about titles", asks Tricia from Canada, "how important are they?"
Looking back over the centuries I don't think titles were important to many artistst - it was the work itself that they expected to speak (or not!).  However, our modern age is much more verbal - not necessarily appropriately and often not very well informed and frequently singularly lacking in erudition - nevertheless words pour from us in torrents!!  I often laugh at the sports commenters: "he's in this to win!  He really wanted to get that goal! She's practiced for this for years..." etc etc!! Comments, yes, but pithy, no.

One legitimate purpose of a title is simply to identify the work; it is helpful to have names for things.  Many of us do have a "working title" as we create the piece.  It's hard to think about "the thingie on the wall"!  Working titles are usually quite literal as in "Green Houses on a Hill".
Green Houses
 Later on as I finished the piece I liked the triple meaning of Green Houses and made that the name of the quilt.

As I'm putting the quilt together I often have a list of possible titles up on the design wall; as the design gradually comes together my thoughts about it solidify until one title seems more apposite than the others.  Sometimes, however, a piece goes out with the wrong name and has to come back for a renaming ceremony!!  I remember one quilt I did where the principal color was red and it was of abandoned industrial buildings, so I called it Red Abandon.  It was much later that I realised that the phrase brought to mind a very different picture: "she threw herself at him with red abandon!"

Red Abandon (later renamed Elusive Beauty)
Like Tricia, I often feel that "untitled" is a bit of a cop out but I wonder if over time the number itself begins to have meaning for the artist.  Untitled #69 then develops connotations for him or her that it doesn't hold for the rest of us.  It's like the old Chinese restaurant joke where the regulars order their meals by number, and also tell teach other funny stories by number too: "a plate of #45 and, let me tell you Joke #73 - oho! that was a good one!"

While Untitled + a number is bland and meaningless to anyone other than the artist, an extremely cute title is also distasteful e.g."Mommy's Little Darlings" sickly sweet and cloying - Cleopatra did not cloy and neither should we! Of course if the quilt so titled was a picture of gin bottles such a title might be rather appropriate!

 Even more annoying are totally irrelevant misleading titles.  A few years ago I had a show with an artist whose pieces all had these really long titles: "She done her Man Wrong When She Left Him for Hairy Harry"  or "Tell Me Your Secrets and Ask me your questions" etc  I looked and looked at her quilts which were all based on the same pattern (a "Broken Dishes" variation) and finally asked her where in the quilt were the secrets, or Hairy Harry?  Oh, she replied, the title has nothing to do with the quilt, it's just a line I like from a popular song!!  Talk about feeling cheated!  She made me, the viewer, try to make a connection between title and work and it was all a trick!

I do think that it's absolutely fine to have a somewhat ambiguous title which leaves room for the viewer to interpret the images differently.  For example you could make a piece based on the effects of light as I did in this quilt:

 I entitled it "Last Glow" which mean something very specific for me, but is open (I hope!) to interpretation in different ways.
So - what do you think about choosing a title for a quilt?  Is Untitled #6 enough?  How explicit should a title be?
And, if you have been, thanks (as always!) for reading!   Elizabeth
PS I'm happy to say I've graduated from crutches to The Boot - though I'm so impressed with my new arm muscles I think I should do a little crutchercise each day!!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

La Conner, WA, Australia and impatient patients....

Still, alas, on crutches and trying to be Patient!! Which, of course, is what Patients should be!
However, I was lucky enough not to fall downstairs until after I'd shipped about 30 or so quilts to La Conner, Wa for a show in the Quilt and Textile Museum there.

Red Morning
It's up through the end of the year so I hope, if you're in the area, you have a chance to pop in and see it - if not for me, then to support the museum!! I've heard it's a very classy place and it's important that we show as much support as we can to elegant galleries that specialize in showing fiber. And let me know what you think!
 After the show, one lucky quilts will be headed to Australia - I'm fortunate to be included in a group called Through Our Hands based in Leamington Spa, UK and they're arranging shows all around the world.  I wonder if they would notice if I was curled up inside the quilt when I ship it!!

Because of the dratted Ankle Infirmity I had to postpone my workshop on abstract art for quiltmakers (see side bar) which has given me more time to work on the Power Point Presentation with which I'm going to start the class. I have images of the work of around thirty female abstract artists, mostly (but definitely not all!) American (do let me know if you have a favorite so I can be sure to include her).  And their work is truly amazing, it is so inspirational.  It's taken me weeks and weeks to put the PPP together - in part because I got totally carried away researching!! And I must admit to purchasing several new art books for the Barton Art Library!! I may only have ancient jeans, tatty tees and obviously handknit sweaters to wear...but boy! have I got a library!!  My most recent acquisition was a book about Sophie Taueber Arp whose work - much of it done in fiber - is so strong and fresh it would blow even Nancy Crow's socks off!! ( I remember she was always looking for that experience when she taught a workshop, though I never actually saw her without socks!).

As I compiled a short biography on each artist, one thing did strike me and that was that nearly all of these ladies had an extensive art education.  Most quiltmakers do not - and the few that do are obviously way way ahead of the others. I'm thinking of people like Joan Schulze, Pauline Burbidge, Elizabeth Busch - and of course Nancy Crow.  So now I'm researching just what goes into an art education and I'd love to hear from you as to those features of the education that you feel were the most important.  The courses I've looked at include a lot of art history, many technique classes (well we've all had those, right?!!), drawing and basic design.  I don't think you get a lot of critiques until you get to the MFA stage, but tell me if I'm wrong!  And then very often the critique is a group discussion rather than a well informed evaluation.

So - what do you think?  Do we, as quiltmakers striving to improve our art, need an art education?
And, if so, of what should it comprise?
And now to hobble off to put the kettle on -  not easy on crutches!!
If you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth

Friday, October 4, 2013

Trips: pleasant and not so pleasant!

 A trip to beautiful Canada - I'm not fond of Southern Ontario with all the traffic and incredible development - but only a couple of hours North and you're into gorgeous wonder all Canadians seem to be able to suffer hours of traffic jams in order to visit their weekend "cottages".  On the left is one of my favorite kinds of scene...a dark value foreground, leading to the promise of a glowing patch of something in the middle ground.  I used this kind of value pattern a lot in the series of night city streets I did some years ago. (scroll down to see the street scenes)

There's also nothing like space, space, beautiful space, empty of people space in "home" landscape was the Yorkshire moors and I love the recession and colour that are evident here.
This is Lake Buckhorn by the way.

another landscape love of mine: reflections!
And here you can see me stretched out with what looks like three cups of tea (must have been there a while!!) making little sketches of those aspects of the beauty around me that really caught my eye.

It is important to work with those images that really resonate with you, in your own way.  Recently I was recommended a lovely blog by David Owen where he occasionally writes about various artists he feels are important.  In writing about Ben Shahn, he quotes the artist's search for his own voice.  He had become a very competent painter in the style of various greats - mainly in Europe - but questioned:

"This may be art, but is it my own art?"

Shahn wanted to be more than professional, competent and even original.  What he wanted to do above all was to produce art that was uniquely him: his whole life, everything that had happened to him from childhood through college and all that he had experienced, felt and thought. When he looked at the work he was producing, he criticized himself for not using his own personal techniques, in his own way, about things that he really cared about. The things that were on his mind.
   Do you see yourself in your work?  do you see the things that worry or delight you the most?
Art work should be as distinctive as handwriting, and the message should be that which is in your heart every day. I'm cogitating......

Okay - and now the "not so pleasant trip" - I managed to fall downstairs while trying to do and carry too many things - not following my own advice to be Very Careful on stairs!!  Consequently a very nasty sprain means that I'm laid up (alas no square dancing!) for a few weeks and have had to postpone my Abstract Art for Quiltmakers workshop in Falmouth, Cape Cod.  Thankfully only one student was unable to make the new dates (nov 18-22) - but that does open up a slot - so if you're interested, do email Linda - (or phone:508-477-0057, or 800-537-5191).  And Be Very Careful on stairs!!  

If you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Real or virtual classes?

I've got two new classes coming up:

Working in Series online with  which starts this Friday and is an exploration of what, when, why and how one should work in a series.  It's a really different kind of class and one that can only be done online, for it involves research, and taking time to think deeply about where you are (artistically speaking!) right now.  It's a perfect kind of class to take virtually.  You have till Sunday to sign up for it! By the way this is the last class I'll be doing with Quilt University as QU closes at the end of this year - however....many QU teachers (including me) have signed up to continue teaching with Academy of Quilting.

Abstract Art for Quiltmakers in real 3D life! in Falmouth, MA This class runs for 5 full days from October 14-18.  (please contact Linda Gallagher if you're interested, there are just 2 places left in the class).
This is a new class for me - I've been admiring and analyzing the many varied styles of abstract art made by female artists since early in the 20th century.  Many of these women were attached to male artists who are much better known - however the women's work is just as good - sometimes better!  It deserves to be studied and there is so much inspiration to be gain from such a study.  This class is a design class with specific instructions on how to design many different kinds of abstract art.  We're also going to dye the fabric!  And construct 2 quilt tops!  Plus lots of one on one instruction, even (with luck) a few witticisms from yours truly!

Advantages of Online Class:  no travel, cheaper, easy to fit into your daily life, time to think between classes.
Advantages of Real Live class: one on one real contact with the teacher, getting immediate help and feedback, concentration: being able to (and compelled to!) focus just on making art for several consecutive days, meeting other quilt artists and learning from them.

I don't see these two different kinds of workshops as being either/or - there are some things and some points in your life where one approach will work better for you.  comments?

Feedback!  As I studied abstract art for the Abstract Art for Quiltmakers class, I made a number of small quilts based on my findings and you can see these below...I want to choose a couple of these ideas to develop into a series - so please let me know which you find the most interesting and engaging - and why!  which are the freshest ideas?  Which attract you the most?

Footfalls in the Memory


Four Rooms with a Window

Highlands, Fall

The First Machine

Brush or Scissors?

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How come you’re not in the work?

Went down to the university art department again yesterday for another artist talk:
 Tony    Martelli   whose work is said to "suspend   time and disbelief with a peculiar aesthetic tension". 
  A nice little   bit of art speak!!  And probably meaningless!  Or rather, so vague of meaning as to be 
worthy of a horoscope!  However, the work is definitely strong and provoking and he has a very distinctive
 point of view.  
He began his talk by describing how in graduate school he really wanted to "project his intellect", to appear very 
smart and knowledgeable and as a result the work was "dry, textual, monochromatic, dull" and overly 
manipulated. His studiomate said to him one day - "You’re an interesting guy, but your work is dull;
how come you’re not in the work ?"  That remark changed everything; he decided to be a different 
kind of artist and deliberately put more of himself into the work.  He wanted "to give form to his
feelings, anxieties, hopes,  and dreams as the Romantic artists had done", but he wished to do this in a way "that made sense to a contemporary audience."

 His first piece after this epiphany was an empty cardboard box, an old battered empty cardboard box 
labelled with his name.  A good title will save work from being cleared away by the janitors (yes, that 
has happened!) and the box was entitled:  “My soul-searching finally paid off “.   His aim was that the 
box would stand as a metaphor for himself: empty but ready to receive. 

Tony Martelli
Being a "newly romantic artist" he told us that he thought about "romantic tropes".  (As an aside, I've been 
dying to use the word trope which means "a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression".)
 of Martelli's most successful tropes has been his sculpture of himself as a sleepwalker.
He described how this sculpture works as a perfect trope when placed in a any boring museum settings!!

He's also done a lot of "self portraits" made from vegetables or hunks of meat (these are meticulously rendered in silicone or bronze by the way (including the flies) but look entirely realistic - more tropes!).
So he both literally and metaphorically put himself very directly into his art.   And it came alive, and much more compelling.  How can we as quiltmakers do this?  I've often been surprised by people who make pieces in a random haphazard way hoping that the colors and textures will come together to make an interesting whole.  Or even
stranger,  people who work from a photograph that they just came across yesterday and they think looks
quite nice - how can that be meaningful for you?  I think I've always tried to make work that related to my
own life  - now that doesn't necessarily mean I've been successful...but I have had that aim. For me, there's
always a story behind the quilt.  Here's a couple of recent pieces:

Brushes and Scissors

 In Brushes and Scissors,  I'm contemplating my somewhat segmented and confused life where I can't decide whether to focus on make fiber art, or I guess this is a Real Trope - if metaphors can ever be seen to be real..the scissors do seem to be in charge of the action here having cut up several of those brushes!!

Do you try to put yourself into your art?  do you try to make work about your dreams, and feelings and hopes and nightmares?
(yes some of Martelli's work was pretty nightmarish! - for example the sculpture of the "Fucked Couple"  who had had limbs torn off because a grand piano had fallen on top of them ......)

Is making one's work about one's real life important?
 Or is it better to appear smart and knowledgeable?
Opinions, please!!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Art: a world of hypothesis and dreams

I love going to talks given by artists - especially those who have had long and successful careers - there is so much to be learned.  I'm fortunate in that my local university presents many such lectures  and everyone is  welcome.  It's fun to be in the middle of a large student gathering - the girls in incredibly short shorts with their legs twisted up beneath them, the guys draped like drunken daddy long legs! - ahh youth!!

Last night's talk was by Kendall Buster who makes giant installations for large atrium spaces.  She was talking about living in the "crazy creative field" that is art, where design is an object, a peep into the world of hypothesis and dreams.   Like many of us, her first medium and first love was fabric.  When she first started to work with metal, she folded, bent, overlapped and  "stitched" the panels together with screws! She felt that looking back it was possible to recognize your style early on in your practice -   a thought which opens up possibilities for cogitation in a further blog!

 The first work she showed (right after grad school) was rather solid  looking  building shapes that you could walk into but soon she replaced the metal panels with fabric:

Garden Snare, 1998, Kreeger Museum, Washington, DC, shadecloth. steel
She was very open about her design inspirations: she was exploring two things: the idea of skeletons - the metal wire covered with mesh (initially she used paper, but soon began to use various synthetic fabrics that were much more translucent).  The original shapes were based on shells, cells and membranes.   She played with the idea of inside vs outside...are you vulnerable inside?  as in a fully lit glass house at night?  or are you hidden and protected when the light is on the outside, and the dark on the inside. Field vs ground, negative vs positive space.

It wasn't long before she turned to using all white fabric and "floated" the structures off the floor - initially at only about 4 or 5 fit and the viewers had to crawl around under them to see them!!  It would be fun to suspend quilts like this - horizontally with the light behind.  You would lie on the floor and see the quilt floating above you - a great reference to the original idea of quilts as horizontal covers above you.  (hmm...I wonder if I could propose this to the next venue that wants to show my work!!)
However, boring things like insurance regulations, soon  had the white structures elevated into atriums - suspended by steel cables, sometimes from existing beams, as determined by the architects.

Ms Buster didn't mention fungi as an inspiration but her strata series really made me think of the horizontal tree fungi I've seen:
Topograph, 2010, San Francisco International Airport. .
New Growth/Stratum Model, 2009, Suyama Space, Seattle, WA.
Kendall talked about being inspired by strata showing us a detailed contour map and then describing the challenge of working from line to plane, AND doing this within the context of architecture  very often all about the grid.  Her stratum structures are individual planes with the edges indicating line and the cables referencing the grid - a wonderful way of combining all the elements to create unity.

  She prefers to work in white, describing herself as chromophobic!! But with such textures created by the layers of fabric and light, there is no need for color -  the artistic vision is fully realized without it.

Much to inspire, and much to be in awe of - not the least being the incredibly complicated details of designing, fabricating and mounting such structures.  Fascinating the fact that she has dealt with some of the same design inspirations as I have been interested in: inside vs outside (are we looking in, or are we looking out) and as I've seen students in my workshops tackle:  Elaine - remember your fungi??

So - if you have a chance - do check out the lectures at your local art school - and, if you have been, thanks for reading!   All comments will be thoroughly read and enjoyed!!  Please do not restrain yourselves!!
PS - I'm looking forward to my workshop on Cape Cod in October (see side bar for details and contact info) - we're going  to do a little dyeing, and then explore abstract art.  Lots of designing, lots of one on one - you can make one quilt and finish it, get two pinned together, or work on designs!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Conveying Movement.

I've been pondering over the different ways in which one can give the impression of movement within an art quilt.  There are many of course, usually involving repetition, rhythmic elements, and/or gradation of any aspect of any element.
 Look at the repetition both of the vertical elements and the diagonal elements in this piece:
Five Mills Rampant

Can't you just see the old machines chugging up and down, the crank shafts moving?

 In cartoons, the artist uses lines: skinny curved lines around the object that is moving - havn't ever seen that done in a quilt!  but I'm sure it would work.

Snoopy on a skate board

Also, notice that a usually vertical object is horizontal - i.e. his ears.  We often see this on pictures of  flags:

You can almost feel the wind that has this flag  furling out across the deep blue sky.....

And while I've not made a quilt with a flag - you can see the same effect with smoke in this quilt: Oh, What Pretty Smoke!

 And in Heavy Metal,  I used undulating silver quilting lines in the water to give the impression of the constant movement of water on a large lake:

In a more recent piece about dancers...I split the images so that the viewer's eye must travel across the piece to complete the image:

Do write and let me know your favorite techniques for showing movement - and also comment on which of the above you think is the most effective...your first impressions are very important!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Successful Class at Arrowmont

My new class, Abstract Art for Quiltmakers, which I've been developing since early Spring, went down very well at Arrowmont Art and Craft School last week. I had an assistant, Karen Hamrick, who has photographed many of my quilts over the years, and it was so great to be able to hand over to her some of the multiple tasks involved with a dye/design/construct class. Thank you so much, Karen! Now I'm completely spoiled!

Most people composed at least a couple of dozen designs and some did even more!  Of course not every design is going to work well, and you can't be critiquing them as you do them. Nothing annoys the Muse more than having somebody breathing down her neck saying "well that looks awkward!" and "how on earth will you construct that?" or worse yet: "that's Boring!"  It's important just to get into the Zone and the Flow (yes, at the same time!) and just sketch away.
I have lots of ideas for starting points, so the ladies in the workshop had actual directions to follow but they were not so rigid that they all came up with the same thing.  In fact the sketches were all remarkably different and reflected the style of the person making them, not me - which is always my aim. I'm not like that poor old sheep in England, I don't want to be cloned!!
And here are some of the designs:

Nina-Marie's beautiful circles were not sideways but I can't persuade blogspot to put them the right way up!  However you can see it's an image full of joy - also it's all quilted!!  Just needs the  edges trimmed and the interfacing added.  On the side are a couple of her other designs, and she was well on her way to having a second piece completed that alas I did not get a picture of ..but I know it will be on her blog soon!

Connie made a couple of super pieces....this one is based on a wonderful artwork in Arrowmont's gallery.  It's such a great inspiration having a gallery with almost a hundred amazing pieces just outside the studio of the many ways in which Arrowmont reigns supreme!   Unlimited photocopying in both black and white and color AND with enlargements is another real boon - plus an superb library full of art and craft books and all the latest journals.

Here are some  of Connie's other designs...

I love this frieze quilt that Elaine made....she was so busy designing after that she neither made another quilt, nor even pinned them up!!  But I'm going to be checking up on her!!!

Liz made this beautiful clean, elegant quilt - I would love to see it done Very Large - but it's gorgeous just as it is....
 Linda's wall of designs....all excellent, plus that lovely little landscape already completed in the middle - a very Abstract landscape by the way.  Abstract art can be all the way from pure nonrepresentational to abstracted from some existing source and we covered all of it.

another piece by Liz - such movement and still elegant, I love the gradation of blues.  As you can see Liz is a Very Fast worker!  And her style is so crisp and clean too.  
 Elizabeth (yes we had three Elizabeths in the class!) made this lovely shoreline piece  - it's quite wide - maybe 4' or more - and I like the mystery of it..part driftwood, part ocean...

Kathy not only made great designs, and a super start on a geometric piece, but she also had this crowd of cheering onlookers!!  She's going to make those shapes much more abstract and I think it will be a lot of fun.  Also I love the circles...and they were very painterly and textural..and I know she's going to do More!

Look at the power  of this deceptively simple design by Mary....There are all sorts of nuances to it too when you get close.  She wisely edited the sketch - it just didn't need the fringe.  Great economy!! One of the hardest guidelines to follow.
Mary was working on a really interesting piece that I didn't get a photo of and I hope she'll send me it!!  Plus those circle designs have great depth and I think they'll work really well.

Gay whipped out this beautifully balanced indigo piece...great depth - from across the room it felt really dimensional - and she had many more designs that had great flow to you can see from the small one at the top here...

Marilyn made this very strong piece in a complementary color scheme.  I love the repetition of the black and white bars...and the use of negative space.  A very intriguing little quilt that I think would work in any orientation - I hope she makes more!

 Cindy had never made a quilt before - there were three complete newbies to quilting in the class plus a number of folk who had never dyed their own fabric (as you can imagine, they are totally hooked on hand dyeing now!).  This little quilt is really well balanced, but continuingly interesting - every time you look at it you see different relationships between these quadrilateral shapes AND  when you get close there's hand stitching  on some of them, like the thin white lines of an elegant pinstripe!  Very very nice.

Carmen had also never made a quilt before...she finished this amazing piece (it's all quilted, just needs the interfacing) and had many other designs, PLUS a start on a very large version of the little colored sketch below.  Carmen really knows how to use space in a quilt and I love her unique style.  It was also a lot of fun to introduce her to free motion quilting!  Within minutes she was galloping away with a big smile on her face!

 Elizabeth's second piece - also going to be huge and so fresh and you can see she had just completed the first three rows of the sketch...I think these strips were at least 5' long!!  Nothing daunts these new young quilters and it's great.

I do love the mix of folk you get in an Arrowmont class - people with 20 years experience and Quilt National acceptances and folk who've never ever made a quilt before.  People in their prime, and others still young and beginning their careers in art.  We also had professions from a travel agent to a rocket scientist (wonder if they got together on some advance planning?)

I was so pleased with my Abstract Class that I plan to do another version of it at Falmouth, Cape Cod in October (see the side bar for Linda's phone number if you're interested - there are a couple of spots left).  I'll also be teaching it at Alegre in April, for the West Coast people.

And now to see if I can make something myself!! 
If you have been, thanks for reading!!  And do please comment - comments make my day!