Thursday, October 18, 2012

Clarity -- and a Give-away!

I awoke Wednesday morning with a definite sense of what I had to do, and a surge of adrenalin with which to do it.  The way seemed so clear!  Which way?  That way, of course!

In other words, after over a week of agonizing about what to put in my sketchbook, about which contemporary applique artist on which to focus...I wrote this to my tutor:

"’s been a challenge, and I haven’t really made up my mind on a single, particular artist I want to investigate further.  However, for the purposes of this exercise, I’ve chosen one: Canadian-born, UK artist and teacher, Sandra Meech, author of Contemporary Quilts: Design, Surface and Stitch (which I own) and other books (which I do not – yet). 

Right behind her on the short list are these artists:
·        Rosemary Eichorn, author of The Art of Fabric Collage, who, I’ve found out, is retiring from teaching in 2013;
·        Bonnie McCaffery, author of Fantasy Fabrics (among other books), noted teacher, podcaster and video (vid-cast) host, and designer of DigiBobbE (Digitized Bobbin Embroidery) designs;
·        Laura Wasilowski, teacher and author and delightful humourist, Director of “The Chicago School of Fusing”, who combines fused appliqué with hand embroidery in very colourful, whimsical little quilted hangings; and
·        My absolute favourites, Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn – Double Trouble – who are really embroiderers but who use appliqué in their fabric creations.
     Okay.  Why did I pick Sandra? back-track a bit: while there’s been a bit of a revival in needle-turn appliqué (at least in North America) in recent years, especially with the exquisite work of Elly Sienkiewicz and her Baltimore album-style quilts, and while there’s great popularity for fused/bonded appliqué, I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of the more traditional styles.  I am, rather, intrigued by texture and colour found in nature (especially trees – leaves, bark and seed pods/cones), and really want to do more to explore this in textile and stitch. be even remotely true to what I want to explore, I’ve chosen to equate ‘appliqué’ with ‘surface design’.  I mean, strictly speaking, appliqué is defined as the application of one or more ornamental devices to a larger surface or, to quote Wikipedia, ‘appliqué’ is a term from the French meaning ‘the thing that is applied’.  All of the above artists have used this technique in one form or another. 

    Ms. Meech and the Double Trouble team of Beaney and Littlejohn use the techniques I want to work up most.  Ms. Meech starts with photographs and may replicate them – or may deconstruct them.  She combines photography, collage, text, line drawings in her sketchbooks.  Beaney and Littlejohn use more paint and layering in addition to drawing, but they also use photos for inspiration.

    I  particularly love Meech’s use of layering (example at left, from Contemporary Quilts, Batsford, London, England, 2004, p. 106: her piece “Winter Sun”, which she describes as “The last rays of the low, cold sun on the horizon.  Transferred acrylic painting, quilted over wireform and shaped as a block.  Machine quilted with metal and hand stitching.”) – inspired by her travels in Arctic Canada, which has been a major influence on her work and inspired an entire series.  At the top of the piece you can just make out threads of blue scrim (cheesecloth) pooled in a water-like fashion, below which is couched/stitched metal – possibly copper, based on its colour.

    As for Beaney and Littlejohn, I have several of their soft-cover books and their DVD, In Action, which I’ve watched (as I have yours, The Painted Quilt) several times, trying to work out their enthusiastic use of their sketchbooks, a habit that I know you and my former teacher, Anna Hergert, espouse and have been urging me to cultivate!  I’ve taken to posting photos on a cork board in my sewing room, as inspiration for the pieces I want to create – currently to do with trees.  
    In trying to get a sense of the work of these artists, I did a couple of exercises from Meech’s book, Contemporary Quilts, which you’ll see in the attached photos.

    Photo #1: a series of colour studies based on a detail from a photo I took of a rusted old hand pump located on the grounds of an abandoned country school a few miles from here; 

    Photo #2: a two-page exercise - a rough sketch (left) and a collage with paint (right) of a piece I have in mind to make as a door quilt (38" wide by 80" long) for the office of my parish priest (building: 1894);

    Meech's exercises loosened me up a bit but what was really a break-through for me...was the creation of the bark studies with acrylic paint and torn tissue-like paper, scored and punctured with a blunt-end bodkin for added texture.  I've been carrying these images around for some time and they finally exploded out of me (at least that's what it felt like ...and suddenly it was clear -- what I wanted to paint and how -- and I stopped procrastinating and just did it.

    Photo #3: my sketchbook painting in which I attempted to express what I saw in bark I've collected:

    (L) Ornamental Cherry; (R) Birch

    That was pretty much the end of my e-mail.  Linda responded this morning with her usual kind words...and a caution about determining format/structure so that I won't end up with a piece that is all texture and no form. Good point.  A good design has a foundation; it mustn't be texture for texture's sake, or colour for colour's sake etc.  And so I move into the Project Planning phase for my final assessment piece. Hmmmmm....!

    On the heels of a break-through in the use of my sketchbook (at last!)  there's one other thing about which I am clear this morning:  

    This is Post #925!  

    In the run-up to my 1000th blog post, methinks it's time for a wee give-away.  :-)  I have 3 wonderful books I once bought with great intentions, but have never used.  I'm going to give one away at Post 925, one at 950, and one at let the games begin!

    If you'd like a soft-cover copy of Collage Lost and found: Creating Unique Projects with Vintage Ephemera, by Giuseppina (Josie) Cirincione, F.W. Publications, 2006...simply leave a comment to this post and tell me a bit about why you're interested in the book's subject.  I'll make a draw at random from all who comment between now (Thursday, October 18 at about 9 a.m.) and 9 a.m. Saturday, October 20.  (Click the link above to look inside the book at

    All for now!

    P.S. I've made it easier for you to leave comments now!


    Margaret said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Jenny K. Lyon said...

    Ok, I'm jealous! Wonderful work and perspective and I want to have that mix of clarity and adreneline!

    Wil said...

    Congratulations with your 925 post! I still have to go a couple of hundred before I will reach that one :-)

    Cathedral Archives said...

    Easy to comment eh? I think I'm missing something. I'm not sure which identity I'm posting as???

    I usually save your blog posts and read them offline so not having a connection for the links, I didn't give the book any thought until you posted the frowning balloon face and I looked back. Looking inside of the book I can see it's quite interesting. Any book that mentions simple soldering technique must be good.

    congratulations on your post milestone


    Margaret said...

    Hi Christ et al,

    Just testing the ease of commenting on my own blog. Thought I'd made it easy by eliminating all the sign-in code. We shall see...

    Margarita Korioth said...

    Oh dear Margaret I'm late to the party! I tried so many times to have a sketchbook and use it but.....I just jump to my materials and try to create....not always work....but that's how I like to do it.

    By the way THANKS for making it easy to comment :)