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.

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