Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Visiting New York City.....

So much inspiration!

Of course we went to (probably) the most famous fabric shop in the world!  Mood.
Mood is 3 floors of gorgeous fabric and is often featured in the reality show Project Runway...with Tim Gunn. Alas, we did not see Swatch - the famous Mood dog  - we were told it was his day off!!

But we did drool over some fabulous fabric:

yes I bought 3 yards of it...and some of the bright yellow polka dot in the bottom left....but not for quilts.  I find it really difficult to mix commercial and "hand-dyed " fabrics in a quilt.  I also like the idea that I designed the fabric for the quilt as well well designed the quilt...
but I'm hoping I'll look pretty snazzy in a tunic made of the Italian rayon knit I'm holding up!

The highlight of the trip, however, was a visit to the new Whitney ARt down in the old meatpacking district...very close to the Hudson river.  The location and views are tremendous.

I was very inspired by the Frank Stella retrospective show - lots of wonderful ideas that could be a starting point for abstract quilt design.

Just look at these:

The wall texts were some of the best I've ever read, really informative of the artist's process.
Stella said about  working in series: 
"In the Protractor pictures I had been as loose as I could get within a system that I'd kept to for over ten years.  Imposing that discipline on myself endowed all the early work with both benefits and drawbacks."

The Protractor series (that's one above: "The Damascus Gate")  was "rigorously conceived".  STella laid down clear parameters for himself involving the use of the protractor shape and some of its implied angles.  He was able to design 31 variations on this shape.  The curator wrote that this extremely systematic approach (which was during some of STella's early formative years as an artist) led to Stella thinking about his compositions as problem solving exercises.  Setting strict limits actually allowed greater creativity.  If you say to yourself "how many ways can I vary these few formal elements",  you can see how setting limits can force you into being very creative.  In the same way that a cook might have only the same few ingredients with which to make a meal on 7 consecutive nights - if they want people to enjoy the meals - they'd come up with 7 very different ways of preparing those ingredients!

As time went on Stella continued to work in of the ones he set himself was to make one painting for each of the 135 chapters of Moby Dick!   Think of your favorite book and what you could do!!!  

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!!  Enjoy the winter holidays - "winter" (in inverted commas) indeed - it's forecast for 77 here, a mere 30 degrees above "normal".  Which I hope is going to be a bit of a challenge to all those flat-earthers out there!!!  But you never know.....happy holidays anyway!      See you in the New Year!         Elizabeth

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Master Class 2016

now that's a Working Studio!
I have a couple of cancellations for the Master Class on composition and design that I run on please contact me before the end of the year - in fact as soon as possible! - if you're interested.
elizabethmasterclass AT 

This year long class is based on a private paid subscription email/blog. On signing up, I’ll give you the blog address and send you an “invitation” to join.  When you’ve accepted the invitation,  your email address will allow you access.  
 I will send you the actual exercises/assignments once a month 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.  
 The students have told me that the critiques (which are supportive, constructive and anonymous) are the most important thing and extremely helpful.  It's especially worthwhile being able to see other people's work and read my evaluation of those pieces.  That way you get a lot of examples each month on how to address specific problems.

The assignments address typical design and composition problems and cover most of the areas where things can go wrong in creating your own designs.

The aim of the class is to help you strengthen your art quilt design 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. You would certainly be able to carry out most of these assignments in a way that led to a series.

At the end of the year I ask students to assess what they have learned - here is a typical response:

"I learned:
-the importance of actually drawing out my ideas rather than thinking I can just rely on the picture in my mind;
-it is Ok to crop out the stuff I don't really like in a picture;
-it is Ok to move elements around in a picture to make a more pleasing composition;
-value is very important and I have to move beyond so many mid-tones in my work;
-that I need to value my own critique of a piece rather than worrying so much about whether others will like it;
-that I have created a checklist based on your assignments and comments that I can use to try to figure out what isn't working in a piece;
-that art comes in many forms and may be made in many mediums, but that the basic elements of design are common to all;
-the value of cross-training in other art mediums to help inform my work in fiber".

Please email me  if you're interested and I'll send you full details.  Thank you!   And a wonderful Winter Solstice celebration to everyone - however you enjoy drink and make merry!

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Quilts that made them Happy!

Last week I showed some of my own favorite quilts and explored why I really like them; I invited readers to send in some images...and a few good people did!

Here they are:

From Heather Dubreil, a wonderful quilter in Canada:

As a faithful and appreciative reader of your blog, I feel compelled to answer your call to send along a jpg of my favourite-ever quilt, titled Camden Town #2. I chose the palette in a fugue-like flurry of inspiration, yellow being my favourite colour, and I especially like the rhythmic patterning of the windows.

Looking forward to another year of your thought-provoking posts!
Isn't this a gorgeous piece?  It just glows!  Thank you so much, Heather, for sending it.
 And from another Canadian quilter:  Elsie Montgomery:

Not sure about one favorite, but I do love this little quilt. It was made for a challenge: find a “photo of a woman’s face and mess with it” so I Googled “woman’s face” for the image and used the first one on the screen.
I love it because it draws me closer to humanity. Everyone of us hides behind layers at times. Some cannot escape the persona they have chosen because they fear being exposed and rejected. This quilt makes me less inclined to probe what people hide, and more inclined to just hug them.
Others see different things, such as terror or boredom, but everyone has an opinion, which I like too. However, the best reason is that when I finished it, I felt terribly satisfied. That does not always happen!
Thanks for your excellent challenges!
 I really like the mystery in this surely did "mess with it" as, of course, Jasper Johns told us to do:  quoting NY Times art critic Roberta Smith quotling Johns:  
"Writing about Jasper Johns, it is often irresistible to quote, yet again, the artist's famous sketchbook note: ''Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.'' Johns has built an influential career on these legendary instructions to himself and they illuminate the basic tenets of his art with increasing accuracy."
Here is the link to her very interesting article on Johns.
And you've definitely suggested the idea of a public/private face - we see so many "public faces" in the media and know there is a LOT being hidden from view....
Thank you, Elsie, for a thought provoking piece.


And from Geri Patterson-Kutras

Enjoyed your blog as always.  I think reviewing our quilts is a wonderful way to end the year and look back at what we've done and where we're going.  When I did this it definitely brought a smile to me because there's so many good memories connected to so many of my quilts.  I've attached a photo of one of my first "serious" quilts, it's called Courage.  The inspiration was a photo I took of my grandchildren and their friends at the beach.

It has remained one of my favorite quilts because of the children and because it was the first quilt I tried painting on a quilt.

What a lovely memory...memory quilts have such power I think, they are imbued with meaning right from the start.  The grey background is both interesting in itself, but also very supportive of the painted figures - nice  going!!  I can see why it's a favorite.  Thank you for sending it, Geri!
 And from Del Thomas:

These images:

Del writes that she loves both of them: because of the color - so bright, so intense, so happy.
Cactus Flower because it came out exactly as I pictured it .  Even though it took me a long time to finish it.
Parrot Percussion because it was a complete surprise - I made the blocks and rearranged and rearranged them on the design board until I came up this this. The center of each block has a part of a parrot.

I agree- your cactus flowers are amazing!! so joyous and cheerful...I do hope you have this quilt hanging in a place where you can see it every day!

And from Susan Sawatsky, her 3rd quilt:

 Her favorite quilt because:

This quilt is only the third art quilt I've made. I took a class  "Cityscapes" by Hilde Morin and as you can see I veered off sharply on the city  It is my favorite because of the barn which took the whole 3 days of the class to make. Once I got home I had a very difficult time giving myself permission to do anything other than what was taught. I finally emailed another gal who took the class and asked her, tongue in cheek, to give me the go ahead to do whatever I wanted to finish this up. Cutting up the barn in the class fashion was not an option since it would have disintegrated because of the very narrow pieces sewn together.
I love the look of the whole quilt finished, the barn, the sky and the thread painting. It will probably be my favorite until I make another one.

            There's  a good moral to this story: ALWAY give yourself permission to do other things from what one was taught!!   Good point.  And very nice shadow effects Susan....

And from Leanne  Hopkins:

I truly enjoy reading your blog as you bring out the heart behind creating. Your comments provoke thinking deeper about why we do what we do and provide great insight from your wealth of experience and training.

Attached is my absolute favorite of my creations. I am a landscape designer and do art quilting for fun, so the subject(s) came from my heart. There are 29 creatures included in addition to the trees. What I enjoyed most was the process of creating the piece with layers of painting, felting, lace, yarn and beads. My imagination was stretched as I thought about it day and night. In other words, the piece evolved from somewhere deep inside me.

Wow! wonderful work and amazing wonder it's your's a quilt where you'll find something new and interesting every time you look at it.  Beautiful atmosphere...gorgeous.
Thank you!
Hope you have enjoyed these favorites from some of the blog readers!   Elizabeth

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Looking at your Favorite quilts...What makes you Happy

I loved the discussion (as times heated! great!) last week about how to be happy.....strangely enough I was reading yesterday, in a book about something completely different, that one of the best ways to be happy is to be learning something new.
Despite that!!  I though it would be interesting to look back over some of the  quilts I've made and decide which ones I was happiest about...and why.

I've made quite a few quilts in my time - between two and three hundred - and I thought it would be very interesting to look back at them and see which ones I would select as my favorites.  It might also help direct me....and tell me something about myself!

"Where Bong Trees Grow" was always my daughter Clare's favorite:

Where Bong Trees Grow
 It was one of a series of ten pieces I made that were all 60" square - a good size.  Agnes Martin chose this size for her paintings because she felt that it was "life size" - you could really feel you were IN the work.  I liked this quilt because of the atmosphere  - the sense of the magical castle (I was definitely adding Sleeping Beauty to Edward Lear here!) on top of the hill.

As a would-be minimalist though, I would say one of my favorites is Farne Islands:

Farne Islands

I wanted to capture the many different moods of sea...or ocean as you say here in the the distance with the odd sparkle, roiling around when you're close up, or splashing over the rocks - plus doing all the surface design for this was so much fun!!  Loads of different techniques.

A New Day

A New Day was a favorite too because I love the sense of silence and expectancy that you get very early in the morning...the sky is streaked with a million colors that float into each other.  There's the glow of the first sunlight angling onto the houses where all are peacefully asleep - but you the first one to be up and about can appreciate the quiet softness of the early morning.

Everything you can Imagine is Real

 I like this one because it's so rich in its color...without being garish, and there's a mystery about these emerging (or are they disappearing?) figures...I love mystery in a work.

City of Mists
 always loved this piece...I had challenged myself to use only grey.  I dyed every single kind of grey I could think of: brownish, pinkish, bluish, greenish etc - you just add two complementary colors together then tip the relationship first one way...and then the other.
I have a whole lesson about dyeing neutrals in my Basic Dyeing for Quiltmakers class, by the way - it's with

Black and White, No Grey

I just adore black and looks so good to me I could just eat it!!!  Always fancied a black and white living room!!    This quilt also has two things that are really important to me: movement and mystery.  Great combination!

 Incidentally, as I look back at these, some of my favorite quilts, nearly all have been repeatedly rejected from the Big Shows.  They get into All media art shows with no bother, and I don't enter the smaller quilt shows (it's just too expensive to enter very many with both the entry fee and all the shipping costs) I don't know what that tells me about the direction the art quilt world is going..I must be on a very different path!  

It's a really useful exercise to pick out your favorites and figure out just WHY they are your faves....
sure wish I could ask some of those Big Names which ones they love the best!  And if any of Them are reading this (!) plus any of you (of course) please send me picture of the quilt you made that you feel is the pinnacle of your oeuvre so far.....tell me why you love it...72 ppi and about 6-8" wide will work...and I'll upload whatever I can to the next blog!  Send the image and the statement to:  - the AT being @ of course.  Thank you!!!

And, if you have been, thank you for reading....all comments very much appreciated!