Friday, April 30

Wall progress

The globe critique was a success today! Now on to my wall. Which is due on Monday morning. Heh! Most of the white areas on the right are complete. But my shoulder and wrist are getting tired.
I started cutting into the rusted fabric to reveal the red beneath and make it look a bit more crumbly. It also saves me some stitch area.
By the way, I also have to write a 10-page paper by Monday night. Fun.
Back to stitching now.

Wednesday, April 28

As the world turns

TaaDaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It spins! It's finished! Problem solved! The top was great, with the pipe wrapped in waxed red hemp and using the metal disk from the original globe. The bottom had been wrapped as well, but the globe kept slipping down. After some kind suggestions and then some hunting around down in the basement, found a metal washer that was exactly the perfect diameter to slip over the pipe, but not slip over the wrapped sections. I added a piece of black felt between the metal and the globe to protect it and provide a smooth friction point. It's a little squat and the stuffing filling out the gores created a sort of peeled orange ribbing. If I were to do it again I'd stretch the pattern vertically a bit. But the earth actually is a bit squat, right? It's not a perfect sphere. I'm also concerned what people's reactions to the patterns and stitching will be. The selections were somewhat arbitrary and don't precisely represent borders or specific cultures. They are more generalizations. Part of the reason for stitching was just to boost contrast- the large format printer really washed out my image.
I think adding the french knot blog hit representations is interesting. It shows who's been reading my blog this past weekend (and in general), and so reveals perhaps the english-speaking and internet accessible areas of the world.
I forgot to mention before one of the inspirations for the piece. One of my ancestors attended a Quaker School in the early 19th Century, where they had young girls stitch globes as both geography and embroidery lesson. Here's to Mary Troth!

Tuesday, April 27

Going global continued

The globe is almost complete. I had a lucky find of a copper pipe exactly the right diameter to fit into my globe stand, just had to hack saw it down to the right length. I added just a few more french knots to represent some previously unrepresented areas (Thank you whoever found my blog today in Vietnam, India, Israel, and Mauritius!)I started stuffing with polyfil, and of course... as usual... I run out when I only had the last little wedge to fill in!! GRRRRRRR! Good thing this isn't due tomorrow. I attempted opening up an old pillow to use the stuffing, but it was too lumpy and felt awful. C'est la vie. I'll go buy some tomorrow. Then I have to figure out how to keep it centered on the axis- gravity keeps pulling it down, but the pipe doesn't spin on the stand prongs, so I have to allow for spin of the sphere on the pipe. Wish I had some air-dry clay- I could make a little flange.

Monday, April 26

Thank you!

Wow! I don't know what happened! I can't believe how many people have visited the blog in the last 2 days! My globe has lots more little black dots added to it. Merci Beaucoup! Danke Schon! Muchos Gracias! Tesekkur Ederim! Grazie! Tomorrow I'll finish it up. In the meantime, I've spent the day working on this monster:

It's 4 ft x4ft and I don't know how I'll possibly get it anywhere near completion one week from tomorrow. I spent the afternoon sitting the gallery for Spontaneous Repetition stitching my heart out.

The most interesting moment was when a neighborhood guy came in, quite possibly stoned, saw the work on the walls, saw me sitting there stitching and asked if he could make some art with me. So I pulled out my sketchbook and pencil set, and he sat and sketched out a whole page full of graffiti tags. I asked him if he wanted me to tear the page out for him to keep, but he said I could keep it. Sitting a gallery in the middle of Kensington, (AKA the badlands) has its moments.

Sunday, April 25

Going global

Lest you think I've been slacking in the studio this week after all the other-people's-art posts, be reassured. I've been stitching my fingers off. Here's a sneak peek of my digital print project: I've been reading about the work of Alighiero e Boetti and his stitched world maps (actually crafted by Afghani women). I'm teaching a pattern exploration class in the summer that uses world textiles for inspiration. And I'm completely obsessed by my blog visitor map in the sidebar.
So I scanned in images of textiles from various regions of the world, put them into repeat in photoshop, created my own pattern for the ocean fill, filled in all the areas with the patterns, and used the large format printer to print the image on cotton. After a bit of sewing to seam the gores together into a sphere and some embroidery, I decided to add French knots to represent my blog hits. All those little black dots there.... thank you readers!
Maybe I'll add some more based on tomorrow's visits, then it'll be time to stuff and finish the form. I bought an old globe with a stand I'll use for my softy globe presentation. Hopefully it'll spin! I'll share final photos next week- it has to be finished by Thursday!

Saturday, April 24

Wherever there is Water

Artist George Ferrandi has been working as the Artist in Residence at Fleisher Art Memorial for the past 6 months. It started off with inviting community members in for tea and conversation, and slowly the story grew. From stories it moved on to sculptures and lanterns, and countless community members gave their time and energy to make the paper mache items that would eventually be carried in a night procession to tell the story. Inspired by Catholic Saint processions on Holy Days, tonight was the culminating event- a procession around South Philly with community members and Fleisher people carrying all the lanterns and lit sculptures through the streets (see the parade route above). Led by Huberta, the main character, traveling by water up the Eastern seaboard to find her love, we set out at dusk, lanterns swaying.
We stopped traffic as we marched down 8th street to Wharton, down to 3rd and back up to Catherine Street. We passed a quinceanera party, neighbors hanging out their windows to watch, children in the project developments rushing up to ask what was going on, and bar patron crowding the windows to see us go by.Huberta was accompanied by a giant polar bear, sphinx-like lions, a canoe and various other fish and animals all made of paper and lit with fairy lights. A choir sang her theme.We ended up back where we started with a great cheer. Somehow the long-predicted rain held off for the parade to go on without a hitch. I've been in and watched a lot of parades in my life, but none like this! Congrats to George and the community for pulling it off!

The Saving Grace of Stitching

I've recently read "Sins and Needles: A Story of Spiritual Mending", the memoir of Ray Materson, who discovered embroidery while imprisoned on drug charges in the 90's. His pieces are generally baseball-card sized and densely stitched, originally with the threads of unraveled socks. His images are generally narratives, autobiographical, or portraits. The one below depicts when a seagull got caught in barbed wire on the prison wall and its cries were heard all around the compound.
He discovered the meditative power of embroidery, focus through repetition and slow creation, and the purpose that builds in creative acts. This power of embroidery carried him through his sentence and equipped him with purpose upon his release, helping him fight the demons of addiction. For more of his story and his work, you can visit his website or read his book.
Some synchronicity occurred.. after finishing the book I noticed that Penny Nickels had written about embroidery and social justice over on Mr. X-Stitch, including a link to "Fine Cell Work" - a UK program that introduces needlework to inmates, commissioning works for sale. I wonder how widespread crafts like needlework are in the American system.

Friday, April 23

Art Quilt Elements:TEXTURE

I've had the craziest of days. Ups and downs, opportunities and failures, joys and frustrations, progress and setbacks. AAAGHGHGHGH! So before I hit the hay I want to look at some art.
I'm glad I saved these for last, as it helps me understand that the crazy day I had was just demonstrating the texture of my life- and these works really explore texture."Father and Mother" by Susan Lenz is a stunning example of texture. It contains grave rubbings on vintage needleworked fabrics, casting another layer of time onto the already history-rich cloths. Her taut quilting stitch (kantha stitch...) ripples the surface creating texture within the cloth, not merely on the surface. I want to hold it in my hands and feel its weight (After perusing her blog I've seen that even the backs of her grave rubbing quilts have vintage fabrics, and now I reallyyyy want to touch it!)."Crossover" by Mary Ruth Smith also blurs the lines between quilting and embroidery, as every square inch of the surface is densely stitched with patterning. The image has a satellite view like looking down on city blocks and buildings. It wasn't until I looked through my camera viewfinder that I noticed the prominent black cross in the composition. Is it just an asphalt intersection? Or does it allude to the faith of a community? This is another one I'm tempted to call "favorite". (the link has more of her artwork as well as her teaching philosophy with which I couldn't agree more)I share this image of Denise M. Furnish's "Nine Patch" not because it was a favorite, but because of its surface texture and boundary breaking. Of note, this piece won the Surface Design award. From far away it appears to be a very formal abstract painting. The beauty of the piece is on close inspection. Made of 2 deconstructed and reconstructed nine-patch quilts, the painting catches every ripple and wrinkle, brushing and caking the surface, but allowing glimpses of the colors and fibers within. It's sort of like a Rauschenberg in that way- elevating the trashed and found to serve the artist's purpose, juxtaposing the traditionally feminine craft of quilting with the oft-perceived masculine art of painting.
I had a student this week question every "artspeak" term I used. "What do you mean when you say texture?" Well, we were drawing and I explained how the marks we make to fill in shapes create the visual appearance of a texture that we may see or touch in real space. Fiber artists have the advantage of creating both visual and actual, sensual texture in their works. These artists really took advantage of that possibility.

Thursday, April 22

Art Quilt Elements: PRINT

I may have mentioned I'm taking a digital print on fabric course right now. I'm still wrapping my head around it's usefulness and how it may enter my work in the future. It was nice to see a broad range of use in digital print represented in this exhibit at the Wayne Arts Center (see 2 previous posts). The 2 works I'll share below were my 2 favorite works in the whole show ( I think... there's so much good stuff it's hard to say favorite).This work, "Piter 1" by Natalya Aikens, is probably closest to how I envision using digital images in embroidery. I already work from photos for inspiration, so it's a logical choice to use the actual photographic image in the work like in this piece. Her use of silk organza allows for transparencies and a fading in and out like a memory of this place. The stitching is subtle, mostly running and seed stitch judiciously placed. I think I would have been tempted to cover it entirely in stitch. (Okay after perusing her blog I feel like we're kindred spirits!)This much much larger quilt by Jess E. Jones is at the opposite spectrum in digital print. There may be photographic images involved, but they've become distorted or enlarged beyond recognition, making the digital print on fabric a patterning surface design. It perhaps carries meaning and content, but the visual effect is formal- a study of value and texture. This one is map-like, topographical. Perhaps I should start a question on the slow-cloth forum- Where does digital manipulation of images and fibers fit into the idea of slow cloth? How can we take advantage of technology and still honor the hand? These artists are doing it, but you have to decide for yourself how successfully.

Tuesday, April 20

Art Quilt Elements:COLOR

As I'm off to teach Color Theory this evening and color is on my mind, I thought I'd feature 2 of the quilts in the Art Quilt Elements show at the Wayne Arts Center (see previous post for overview) that really explore the qualities of color. "Radiant Interception" by Cindy Friedman almost reads as a color wheel with value gradations, each quadrant containing a close analogous color harmony. What I really loved about it was that the "Shadows" in the piece are an overlay of silk organza, which automatically mutes the colors beneath. This layering of transparencies is often used in painting- especially in watercolor, but is underutilized by fiber artists. I don't usually like such brightly colored work, as it reads so "rainbow", but after reading her statement, I smiled-- her use of bright colors were an intentional antidote to being stuck indoors during this long, dreary, snow-filled winter we're escaping.
"Splash" by Jeannette Jacobs is a large and extraordinarily complex pieced quilt. She says she uses her computer to aid in the design process. Again, I'm not normally drawn to such bright "rainbow" work, but I'm just astonished at her control in the piecing and illusion of transparencies as shapes overlap. It's a classic color theory exercise. Instead of using actual transparencies like a watercolor wash or Friedman's silk organza overlays, the artist creates the illusion of transparent objects by imagining what color would appear if one transparent color were laid over another and mixes that color or selects the fabric accordingly. For example, the light colored wide diagonal at the bottom right appears slightly more opaque as it crosses over the thin purply strip pointing towards the center because she chose a color very close to the original white. Whereas the small pink triangle above it feels very translucent where it crosses over the strong downward dark red slash because she chose a redder color for the overlap. What's in front? What's behind? What's transparent? What's opaque? The answers aren't clear, which makes this a very exciting and complex quilt!

I'm off to color theory now- the semester is just beginning, and I'm in my 3rd year of teaching it, but seeing these colorful quilts energizes me to talk about color all over again.

Monday, April 19

Art Quilt Elements at Wayne Art Center

About 18 fibers students from Tyler piled into buses and cars this afternoon and headed out to the Wayne Art center to see the Art Quilt Elements Show that has just opened. If you're willing to brave 76 to get out there, it's worth the trip! I'm just sharing the overview shots today to give an idea of the scale of the space and the works. It's densely hung, but I'm sure they were trying to show great breadth of the field.
Most of all I was pleased to see the new work of Philadelphia fiber artist Dianne Koppisch Hricko ("Urban Rhythm" shown below right), who I believe, among several others in the show, is pushing the definition of "Quilt".
I'll share more details tomorrow. I liked the show so much I bought the catalog (They actually made a catalog!!!).
Now back to stitching. My 3 week project suddenly only has 2 weeks...

Sunday, April 18

Mutual Admiration Society

I've had a lovely response to my Spontaneous Repetition Show and the review over on Artblog, including getting contacted by artist Amy Bouse. After looking through her website I could see what she liked about the Stratasphere exhibit-- her paintings have an affinity with Erin Castellan's stitched prints (like in "Harelip (red tent)" below). There's a similar color sense and abstracted space in both their work. I'm always curious where artists find inspiration for their titles, and this one especially makes me wonder if there's a literary reference (Red Tent by Anita Diamant? awesome book).
This sketchbook series inspired by the design proposals by Los Angeles Fencing Company for Limerick Avenue School (if I've understood the inspiration correctly) seems to relate to my stitched urban landscapes. I love seeing the back of the previous page's stitching as you flick through the "book" on her website. The markings break the tight lines of the blueprints, marking perhaps how the site was actually used by children in play.
The internet is a wonderful thing, especially when it can introduce like-minded artists to each other. I like how Amy gives equal weight on her website to all her areas of artistic focus. Although I wish she'd write more about them in an artist statement or description of her series so we could have insight into her process (hint hint?)

Have a creative week! Mine will be filled with a lot of stitching... which I'll share later.

Friday, April 16

Blog Love

Poor neglected colored- thread. It's been a very busy week, preparing for final projects and getting ready for the National Art Education Association Conference in Baltimore. In fact, I'm almost out the door to go down there...

So to hold over the weekend, check out the review by Libby Rosof of Artblog featuring "Spontaneous Repetition"! I'm staging a quiet rebellion! Love that phrase.
Interestingly she compares my work to Warren Rohrer's surfaces (seen above) and Peter Doig (seen below). hmmm.

Wednesday, April 14


I went down to Wilmington, Delaware this morning to visit the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art (had to research for my final art ed paper). It's a great combination of exhibition spaces and artists studios. The exhibitions are quite varied and bring together nationally practicing artists, curated group shows, featured member artists and featured studio artists. I especially liked the current work in the studio artists gallery:
The clouds are stiffened thread balls- I love how they catch the light. I know it's very lax of me, but I forgot to write down the artist's name !! You'll just have to go down to Wilmington and see for yourself...

Monday, April 12

Enormous undertaking

This is a detail of the Kantha stitching from the previous post. I made it as a sample for my surface design final. The reds were all clamp dyed, the blues clamp-dyed and discharged, and I have a nice piece of rust-stained cotton ready to go. In class today I pinned all 3 pieces up on the wall to get some perspective and decide on scale. I've been persuaded to really make it a wall. This will be a huge project to finish in the next 3 weeks. Lord help me. The final dimensions will probably be about 4 ft square!