Sunday, 26 January 2014

Current discussions in art quilting

There has been some interesting discussion on the SAQA Yahoo group over the last couple of weeks and I have used the 'conversations' to help me reflect on where I want to go with my quilting this year.

It began with people saying that they thought art quilts are becoming smaller.  Much of the comment was based on observation of what is being accepted and rewarded in quilt shows but the topic is of interest to those of us who choose to work small.  I would agree with the statement that bigger pieces have more impact.  However, here in the UK, most of us live in smallish houses, often with small rooms and this may influence our work more than we realise.  While we do not work with the idea of displaying our quilts in a domestic setting, it is nice to be able to have a few on the walls.  I have several framed journal quilts on the landing but only one larger quilt.

I made Gwithian Two about a year ago.  It is 72 cms wide by 58 cms tall and fits nicely on the landing wall even if you can't stand back from it.  There is Gwithian One but that has had to be put away as our walls are quite full of art work of various kinds.  The second problem with small houses is room to display 'work in progress'  I have two large pieces of foam insulation board as my design wall and generally prop these up against my workbench.  Most people I know do not have purpose built studios and have various arrangements for design walls such as pieces of fabric that can be propped against doors.

A second thread in the SAQA discussion has been the use of commercial fabric.  I have vast quantities of 'bought' fabric but I doubt whether I will use a lot of it as it seems to 'age' and you get fed up with looking at it.  Over the last year I have made several pieces that were patterned but I would not call these art quilts.  They include two new quilts for our beds, a small quilt for a charity and a wall hanging for the new baby next door.  I was prompted to follow a link from SAQA to Judy Dales' website to see how commercial fabrics can be used. I am too fond of batiks and really need to think of ways of using the vast stash I have of that.  I know I can overdye etc. all the other old stuff but at this time of the year wet work does not appeal.

The SAQA conversation also remarked on the lack of piecing in art quilts.  Good point.  I always wanted to 'paint in fabric' so just being able to collage everything was very appealing as I got into art quilts. I have to admit that I had to stop and think quite hard when I made the quilts last year as I had almost forgotten what was entailed in pieced work!  It is apparent that all these traditional approaches have been replaced by a wealth of techniques for manipulating fabric: dyeing, painting, stencilling, using thermofaxes etc.  Been there, done that so which ones do I wish to continue with?

And finally the conversation moved on to the use of digital images and one's own photographs.  Again I have done this a lot.  I am a keen photographer and I am happy with the idea of manipulating images and printing them out, sometimes with good results.  But I am not sure that this is where my real interest lies.  Having said that, this morning I was searching through my old sketchbooks and found the notes from an A4 quilt I did with photos of nets.  I see from my designs that I planned to make a larger quilt with this design and I am wondering if I should revisit it.  One thing about digital photography is that you have the database to hand.

So where did my musing over the SAQA conversation leave me?  My first task is to identify a subject for this year's journal quilts.  It has been a slow process but I think I have just about got there.  I looked at Lisa Call's work and was really inspired by her quilts of Thai temples.  The technique has similarities with Kathy Loomis's, particularly in its use of narrow pieced strips.  I mastered this technique some time ago (it is much more difficult than it seems) and I can see that some of the photos I might use for my journal quilts this year would lend themselves to it well.  Not that I propose to use other people's work as more than mere inspiration. So the next step is to do some art work on the images.  Here's hoping I have a way forward.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Balkan textiles

I have just been checking the state of my blog which had a very bad year in 2013!  I discovered that I had a draft posting about some Hungarian textiles and that after an initial post about Budapest, I wrote nothing about the rest of the cruise I did with my sister and her husband in June.  So here, very belatedly, is the post I did on our visit to the Paprika Museum.

My initial contact with Balkan textiles was in 1972. We spent our honeymoon in what was then Yugoslavia.  When we just about ran out of money we took to travelling overnight by coach to save accommodation costs (I have been over the old Mostar bridge but cannot really remember it!) and ended up spending three or four days in Sarajevo.  It was incredible and I would never go back because of course most of it no longer exists.  But I do remember going to several museums including one with a wonderful collection of embroideries.  In fact I was inspired to make a cross stitch tablecloth to a design from a book I found in the Needlewoman shop in Regent St.  I still have the book and the tablecloth.

From what I had seen in 1972 I knew that embroidery was an important part of Balkan culture.  My sister is a weaver so she was interested in textiles too.  We had hoped to visit the Ethnographic Museum in Budapest but it is an old house with a lot of steps up to the entrance and I decided I could not risk falling up or down them.  A real nuisance.  On our first day on the boat we visited Kalosca in Hungary where there is the only paprika museum in the world.  It is just two rooms but as we were listening to the guide I realised that there were a few examples of Hungarian embroidery in a case just where I was standing.  Most were reasonably modern

and not that different from the clothes we saw in shop windows

but there were a couple of pieces that were obviously older. I did not think that anyone in the museum would be able to tell me about them but you can see that the motifs are based on flowers and that the stitching is predominantly satin stitch.

Later I came across my copy of 'Embroidery Studio' which was published by the Embroiderers' Guild in 1993.  The book is a series of projects in which people created new embroideries inspired by work in the Embroiderers' Guild collection.  One chapter, The Matyo Rose by Diana Keay was inspired by a piece from the Matyo area of Hungary, quite near Budapest.

And here is a photo of the tablecloth I made all those years ago.

I did a lot of cross stitch in those days and it was some years before I was bitten by the quilting bug.  I also have another counted thread tablecloth from the same book but it was never finished and I keep thinking I should cut it up and use some of it in other work.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

A jigsaw puzzle for textile people

The dreadful weather continues.  The garden is a quagmire and the pond is overflowing.  Going for a walk is not possible most days unless you are prepared to get drenched ( I look at people walking their dogs and am glad we settled for cats!).  I am still making my mind up about journal quilts but I have had another distraction.  My sister gave me the ideal Christmas present: a jigsaw puzzle featuring lots of cats in a sewing room!

We only started it a few days ago as we decided to wait until the Christmas decorations were taken down.  In our youth we were fanatical doers of jigsaws but we more or less gave up because they do not combine with cats.  Instead I have some on my iPad but they only have 200 pieces so do not take very long to do. We have a table in the sitting room which turned out to be just large enough for this size puzzle.  So I have started although that part of the room is very dark so after about four o'clock it gets too dark to see the pieces.  Here is the left hand side:

The high contrast sections have been reasonably visible but the dark blue is the foreground is a bag of knitting wool and I had to wait for a sunny moment to do it.  We have not really got a plug where we could put an extra light.  The puzzle is fiendishly difficult but that just makes me more obsessive!

On the right hand side the armchair was fairly easy but that is about all.  The beige pieces are a dressmaker's dummy and a dressmaking pattern so you can see it is just the thing for me.

And keeping the cats off?  While I am working on it I have to rely on shouting at them and lifting them off the table if necessary.  If I go out of the room for a short time I shut the door, hoping that all three are locked out.  And overnight or when leaving it for longer, I have discovered that two cutting boards laid side by side on top of it are just right!  Now that I am back into the swing of this activity my husband is threatening to buy me jigsaws from the Oxfam shop where he works but I will have to make sure they do not take over my life.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Arty New Years resolutions

Happy New Year to everyone.  Down here we have been beset by storms and very high tides.  We have been cautious and not gone to see them as the photo in my last posting was taken on a day when I was engulfed by a wave on Penzance Prom.  Fortunately we have not been in danger of flooding although today we have had a booklet delivered on how to prepare for floods.  I would sooner not think about it.

Like most people I have started the New Year full of ideas for new activities.  As I can no longer go on holiday I told myself I could afford to buy two horrendously expensive art history books in The Folio Society's sale.  I plan to really study these.

They came in a hard slip case.  They are so heavy I cannot pick them up easily, even one at a time and they will not fit in any of the bookcases.  They consist of detailed articles 

and wonderful photographs.

I have decided I should read them sitting at the dining room table and preferably take notes as I go.  A personal adult education course perhaps!

I am also having thoughts about doing the Journal Quilts project again.  Watch this space.