Diaspora Update

I have lots of great photos to share about the last 4 weeks of my work on the diaspora art quilt project. My camera battery charger disappeared midway through September, causing a delay in photographing my progress. It’s been great to have the time to dedicate to the project. Tomorrow I start a full-time job, less time to quilt, so It’s a good thing I’ve gotten most of it done.

This is what the piece looks like with the silk laminated collage basted onto the cotton sateen hand-stamped with the hurricane-symbol shapes; at this point, I’ve started cutting away at the top using reverse applique to create depth, and at the very top you can see a white hurricane-symbol shape cut out of paper, placed there to see if it would be a good location for reverse applique.

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Here is a reverse applique shape cut out of the 2-layer quilt top; each of the applique shapes features a photo of New Orleans post-Katrina, and this photo features a banner suspended from a building, it reads “until we all come home”:

100315 blog 1Once I cut out 14 reverse appliques like the one above, each one needed to be couched with colored yarn to cover up the seam. Here’s the same applique, now couched with yarn I dyed:

100315 blog 4I used the shapes cut out from the top to create a spiral pattern on the back of the quilt:

100315 blog 5And once the backing was done, I spent 2 arduous days basting the top and the back together with wool batting in the middle; once basted, I started quilting, and this is the result so far: I think you’ll agree that the quilting line really makes the collage “pop” out. I’m really pleased with the results so far!

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Update on Paper Shredding Fabric Design

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This is what I’ve got so far in my ambitious diaspora project. The size is roughly 58″x58″. The concentration camp image is almost done; above that is the Lincoln memorial image, you can see it in pencil barely, and I’m going to start filling that in today. I’m auditioning text for the other spaces, not sure where that will all go yet. Also, the conquistidor shape, a rubbing from my recent visit to Santa Fe, will factor in somehow, as will the national weather service hurricane symbol, which you can see to the left.

Here’s a close up:

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And here is the stack of color photocopies (I’ve spent close to $100 on these) which I’ll be ripping up and fitting into the piece, somehow. I recently shared with one of the women in my bi-weekly art quilt group that I was spending my time shredding paper in my art studio; she asked me if I felt like a hamster. Not a lot of fabric is designed by ripping up paper and taping it together! Next time I’ll post a photo of the paper debris on the floor. It’s impressive. But, not until the Lincoln memorial design element is complete.

I spent a week in Santa Fe, New Mexico with my mom; we stayed at the vacation home of a good friend of mine. I graduated from the College of Santa Fe in 1990 and have many fond memories of the city.

This is the house:santa fe blog post 3

On the inside it was, of course, spectacular with real books and real art:

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And the views from the big windows were spectacular and went on forever. There was a massive thunderhead cell in the distance late one night and within it the lightning lit up mountains I know you’d never see in the daylight, they are that far away. This was a view to the north-east:

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And a view from the west:santa fe blog post 7

Clearly, this was a very inspiring landscape; luckily we arranged to be there for a week. We’d decided on having a quiet artist-type vacation, in which we’d actually make art, not just look at it or buy it (more common Santa Fe pursuits for tourists).  My mom attended a 3 day workshop about calligraphy, which was coincidentally offered the week we were there; she is a very talented calligrapher. I brought my easel and set up on the second-story balcony to draw this view (minus the truck):

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After 4 days, I completed this drawing (again, minus the truck). It’s 18″x24″ and turned out well. Which is good to say after all the effort. It was great to have a covered balcony where I could leave things undisturbed and work at my own pace.

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The house was right by Fort Marcy Park, which is one of the few bits of public space near the Plaza downtown. The views are the best in the small city. For example, this view of a small rain shower west of town:

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Our last evening there we found a kindly gentleman to take our photo. We look very relaxed. And how could we not? We had a completely relaxing and inspiring experience:

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Log Cabin: Complete

It’s been a very long and hot summer here in Tucson. The last 4 weeks have seen me hurrying to finish up a queen-sized  log cabin quilt for my brother’s wedding a week from today in Madison, Wisconsin; and, I’m pleased to report, the goal is now complete!

When I last left off, I had the 48 10 inch blocks sewn together. That task complete, I then had to come up with enough fabric for the border; and it had to be the right fabric. Earlier in the project I dreamed of a pieced border…..but as the deadline approached I quickly put the kibosh on that lofty goal. I settled on a fabric that had circles, like some of fabric in the quilt, and that was turquoise and green (this was my mother’s suggestion). Here’s the pieced top with enough border fabric to make an 86″x76″ top:

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Then I had to come up with an appropriate fabric for the binding. I knew I wanted something pink-ish, not to offend my brother’s masculinity but to tie in the center squares, which are purple/pink dragonflies. And I was thinking of something with circles in it. My friend Phyllis had some very cool black fabric with white circles; and she had more than a yard. For a queen sized quilt you need nearly a yard of fabric for a 1/2″ binding strip.

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So I took her yardage and put most of it in a fuschia dye-bath; then, once dyed, I cut stripes 2 1/2″ wide, sewed them together into a 340″ long strip (a queen quilt is roughly 72″x84″, so that’s a bit more than 300 inches around). And then I pressed that strip in half; above you see all 340″ on a pile as I’m pressing and starching the last bit of strip.

I had no time to machine quilt this piece myself; plus, with lingering shoulder tendinitis, it just wasn’t going to happen even if I had the time. So I paid a local machine quilter to do it; she could get it done in less than 2 weeks, which was important to me to meet my deadline. When I got it back, it had been beautifully quilted. My friends in my art quilt group helped me straighten it up (thanks to Linda and her extra-long granite kitchen counter-top) and helped hold and rotate the quilt as I stitched on all 320+ inches of the binding.

I couldn’t fit the entire quilt onto my design wall, the quilt is too big; but here it is, anyway:

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This is a close-up of some of the feather-quilting on the light fabrics:

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It’s hard to see, but there’s a nice floral medallion motif in the light center of the quilt, and some angular quilting in the dark fabrics:

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The border fabric is quilted with circles; and, here you can see the circle-fabric that is the binding!

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I’m off to Madison, WI tomorrow; I’ll carry the quilt on board the airplane with me: no way am I checking this! It actually rolls up relatively compact. The wedding is a week from today. I’ll post photos shortly after Labor Day, when I get back to Tucson.


Log-Cabin Madness: Gorgeous but Tedious

July was log-cabin madness at my house. It’s been one of the hottest, most unpleasant summers on record here in Tucson. That’s bad enough, but additionally my job has been more difficult and my left shoulder STILL has tendonitis from quilting my ginormous art quilt about the January 8 shooting. Things have not been entirely pleasant in many areas of my non-art life….so for therapy there’s nothing like taking a rotary cutter to hundreds of scraps of fabrics to come up with 1 3/4″ strips for a queen sized log-cabin quilt.

Because of my shoulder injury, my massage table is open in my art room so I can stretch or just crash out in comfy style at a moment’s notice: but when not in a strip-cutting-coma on my massage table, I used the area for flat-space to organize my log-cabin blocks. As any chaotic artist-type knows, flat-space is the most valuable space in any work area….because it’s space to clutter up!

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Early in July, before my trip to D.C., my little blocks were just one layer big; here you see the pink dragonfly centers with 2 strips of light fabric and strips of dark fabric surrounding each pink square:



And after about 3 weeks of sewing, piecing, ironing…..I had 48 10-inch blocks; each block has a pinkish center surrounded by 12 strips of fabric, 6 strips of different light blue/green fabrics and 6 strips of different dark blue/green fabrics; here they are all, arranged on the design wall in my art room. My mom is reading off to the right; she came up from Sonoita for the night, and she helped me start sewing the blocks together.

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It’s really a challenge to keep the blocks organized in their pattern–this is a barn-raising pattern, though log-cabin blocks can be arranged in an infinite variety of patterns to create many different designs, which is why the simple (but tedious) block is popular with artists. I took 2 down off the wall at a time and handed them to my mom, who sewed them together, and then I pressed them and put them back up again and took down the next 2: and even with that system, things got mixed up a few times. It was SO helpful to have my mom at my sewing machine keeping an eye on the design to make sure no blocks got turned about or upside down.

Here’s a closer shot of the design; instead of 48 square blocks I now have 24 rectangular ones, and in another day or two I’ll have all the strips sewn together:

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While I am excited about the way it looks, I’ll admit that traditional quilt-making is definitely not my strong-suit. The final outcome is stunning……but piecing it all is just so much work.

And I’m not done yet!

Sacred Threads Quilt Show, 2013

I just got back from a brief trip to the Washington D.C. area, where I visited with my father’s older sister, my aunt Helen; together we went to see the Sacred Threads quilt show. Sacred Threads is a biennial, juried show featuring quilt artists from North America. The show features art quilts that address issues with spiritual and emotional content.

Here is a shot of me and Helen in front of my piece, Six Windows, about the January 8, 2011 mass shooting in Tucson:

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There were over 200 quilts in the show, and all were amazing; additionally, there was a featured artist:  Dominique Ehrmann. Dominique is an extremely talented and enthusiastic artist from Quebec; her piece was, deservedly, at the center of the show: here we are in front of her stunning 3-D art quilt “Come Follow Me”:

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It’s impossible from this static image to really understand the enchantment of her work. It’s best to think of it as a child’s pop-up book; there are 4 layers of quilting suspended from her custom made frame.Here’s a close-up of the child-shape, and you can get a sense of the depth of the piece if you look up to the left:

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Here’s more detail; it’s just a stunning vision in fabric and thread, so painterly and sculptural at the same time. In fact, she described her work as like sculpture, and I agree. I find that the construction of the art quilt involves a lot of sculptural thinking and technique.

Here’s a close-up of the tree on the left, and a great example of detail…..there’s a mouse down there……

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I stuck my camera inside the center; here you can see the 4 different layers of quilt: for example, you can see that the girl-shape is in a plane in the foreground and that the gate-shape is in a different plane about 3 layers back. Apologies to the artist if I didn’t get this right, but that’s how it appears, or how I remember it:

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There were so many excellent pieces in the show; I photographed a few just to show here, but they are by no means the only excellent works on display.

I liked this very expressive piece called “Hallelujah” by Sandy Curran of Newport News, VA, about recovery from debilitating chronic pain:

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This is a great example of portraiture using fabric and quilting; this is by Cheryl Hurd of Washington, D.C., and is called “Bubba”, one of 2 pieces she had at the show honoring her son who died of cancer:

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This was a very cool quilted interpretation of the Boston Marathon by Rosanne Williamson called “Boston in the Spring”; likely it was finished before the recent bombing attack at the marathon this year, as the artist didn’t mention it. That’s fine with me. That shouldn’t be the first thought that comes to mind with the marathon, anyway. I remember when my dad ran it when I was a kid. It’s a huge human achievement, one that’s been celebrated since ancient times.

“Mourning Doves” is by Betty Busby of Albuquerque, inspired by an exchange student she had in her home from Gaza, and his stories of the effects of war on his family. It’s a superb composition with great color.

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Here’s a close-up:

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Judith Heyward from Hendersonville, NC created this piece, “Hidden Potential”, about the need for women to be pro-active in breast cancer prevention; this was a very technically solid piece:

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I must say, I’m a bit of an introvert, and I had limited time to really view and enjoy the show; I did find myself returning to my piece, only because it looked really good where it was hanging; I’m very thankful to the curator for giving it such a lovely spot with such good lighting!

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I’m very thankful to the Sacred Threads staff, committees, curator, sponsors and all artists who participated; it’s truly a very moving show, and I’m certain those who visit will find it thought provoking and emotionally relevant.


Log Cabin At Last

My brother Frank is getting married in September, and I’m making him a traditional log cabin quilt; I’m making 56 10 inch blocks and want to create a “barn-raising” style log cabin. For more info on what I’m talking about, click here; Log Cabin is a quilt block with infinite possibilities. I’ve seen some amazing artistic twists with this traditional design.

I’m using as many different fabrics as possible. My good friend Phyllis suggested I get a folding clothes-drying rack to organize my strips; this was a good idea, and this is how my strips looked a week ago:

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Phyllis said this would be a good way to get organized. It worked…..except I ran out of room and had to improvise and hang up strips on some twine strung across the ceiling:

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As with a lot of my my projects, so much seems to be about the planning and setting the stage; the actual execution  generally goes quicker. It’s important to actually see your strips as you assemble the blocks, as one half of the block is made up of dark fabrics and one half is made up of light fabrics.

Here’s how the blocks look now: this is just the first dark layer; there will be 3 dark strips and 3 light per block.

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And there will be 56 of them!!

Quilt Fiesta 2013

This past weekend was the annual quilt show by the Tucson Quilter’s Guild: Quilt Fiesta. It was a fantastic show with lots of excellent work. This year I was happy to be recognized with a third place ribbon in the art quilt category. I’ve put work in past shows, just as good as my current piece, and wasn’t a ribbon winner…so I know there are always many excellent quilts at the show. It’s just the opinion of one judge.

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My friend Phyllis Schaefer, who helped me straighten out my piece, won first place in the small art quilt category. She said her art quilt, Night Bloom, started out as an experiment/sampler/practice piece. It’s really cool and a great example of how great art doesn’t have to take all year and lead to  a cortisone shot in the shoulder (what I need now due to tendonitis from machine quilting my piece). Some of the techniques include bleach discharge and fused applique, couching, some nice quilting with ancient native animal shapes…..I really appreciate how shapes and creatures seem to morph into each other. I told her it reminds me a bit of some of Sarah Seddon Boulet’s work.

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Here’s some detail….

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Also, I thought this was one of the most technically amazing pieces at the show, an original medallion quilt by a local quilter I haven’t met, but hope to meet, Keith Dommer, called “The Learning Quilt”. It’s just really an excellent design with a lot of nice repeating elements. Keith teaches at a local quilt shop and I may take a class with him, as I think I could learn a few things! This quilt won just second place in it’s category…..but don’t worry, he also took first place, too, in the same category with a different quilt!

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Here’s some more detail…..just the piece-work, the curved applique, the cool fabrics…

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And finally, I was happily surprised to see someone–Malcolm Neifield–has finally made a Dr. Who quilt….specifically, “Dr. Who: Adventures with the Tardis”. This was my favorite TV show in my late teen years (full disclosure, I was a nerd) and I was happy to see an original quilt honoring all the doctors….though of course I’m partial to the ones from way back when.

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Can’t wait for next year’s quilt show!

Project Projection

This is how it starts when it comes to making shadow shapes: the overhead projector gets dragged into the living room. This is the biggest shadow shape I’m using, here it’s projected on some Pellon True Grid taped to the wall. I outlined it with a sharpie, cut it out, and pinned it on top of a large piece of shiny nylon tulle. I put stabilizer on the back of the quilt top; here I am feeding the shape through my machine and sewing the outline:

Pinning everything together and laying it out requires my large braided rug to be used as a work surface:

The next step: dyeing yarn for the outlines for the shapes. I’m using bright colors to liven things up; the piece is a bit gray so far.  The largest shape requires 20 feet of yarn. I’ll dye small amounts of fabric or yarn in my kitchen sink:

The first completed shape is orange and it’s on the left side: it’s meant to be subtle.

I’m sewing down the second outline now….updates soon.