Blog

It’s crying time again for those who didn’t make QN…..

October 23rd, 2014

I am starting to see blog posts from those who entered Quilt National this year and didn’t get in.  Why do we get so hung up on these rejections?  Why do we especially feel bad when QN says no?  (What amazing PR they have been able to foster that a person’s whole mood can be impacted by their saying yes or no.)  I know how it feels, I have been there.  It stings.  And don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled for all of those who have had the chance to add QN to their resume–lots of people I know and admire, lots of outstanding work.  Kudos to you all.

But a little perspective.

The last time around I entered Quilt National with two pieces I thought were pretty strong (and still stand behind them as pieces about which I am very proud)  and I was rejected.  I wrote about it on this blog, if you care enough to see what I said back them you can search the archives for it.  But for all of you who feel badly that you didn’t get in, here is what I have accomplished since that rejection two years ago;

I have:

  • published my fourth (yes, unbelievable, my fourth) book
  • been included in three compilation books on art quilting–one as a featured artist
  • been invited to participate in a major exhibition that is now traveling around the world
  • done a huge commission work that also came with a trip to Vienna, Austria
  • have gotten my first solo museum exhibition (next year, more to follow)
  • had my work in almost a dozen group museum exhibitions around the world
  • contributed several articles for quilt magazines, and have been interviewed by two others
  • appeared on the Quilt Show
  • appointed Chair of the SAQA exhibitions committee and member of the Board of Directors.

Not bad for a rejected artist, right?

I don’t list all this to brag, but to point out that getting into (or more to the point, NOT getting into) Quilt National does not define you as an artist.  I have enjoyed more success in this field than I could ever have dreamed, and I am grateful for every wonderful thing that has come my way.  That QN was on my list of things to shoot for and I didn’t get it, I can live with that.  I tried twice and to be entirely honest, at this point I have set my sights in the art world and getting into QN (even though it is the pinnacle for many people in the art quilt world) isn’t relevant for me anymore.   Every year I set a professional goal for myself, some I achieve, some I don’t.  Some I continue to pursue, others become less important.  As we grow and our work changes, so do our goals.

For all of you who got into QN, congratulations!  Well done, and I truly am excited for you, it is a big accomplishment.  For those of you who did not get it–shake it off, don’t indulge in self pity or self doubt–just get back to work and remember this is about the journey, it is about pleasing yourself.  And if it becomes just another source of stress in your life, why do it.

Put down the cupcake/chocolate bar/potato chips and remember everything you have accomplished in the two years since the last QN.  Take a few minutes to set some professional goals for the coming year and how to go about achieving them.  Then ask yourself “why do I love doing this?” and when you remember, go do it again.

 

Arrow Rock, Mo 2014

October 21st, 2014

Last year in October, I was invited to do a workshop in Arrow Rock, Mo.–the most amazing little town I have been to in a long time.  A historic landmark, this tiny town (only a few square blocks) feels like going back in time to the late 1800’s.  It was a great trip and this year I got to do it again.  Most of the women from last year attended again, and everyone was working on their own pieces at their own pace.  What a great time we all had!

Here we are, the Arrow Rock ladies 2014:

workshop

Our classes are held in the one room schoolhouse:

arrowRockSchoolHouse

And here are some photos of everyone at work:

belinda shows off jesusBelinda shows off her work in progress…

jackie day twoJackie’s adorable little grand daughter is coming along….

janetJanet made great progress, she worked on three small pieces this time…..

paulaPaula (who organizes it all) still had time to work on the Explorers from my new book…

roseHere is Rose and Sharon in the background…

terri day twoand Terri hard at work.

And look what they accomplished…

julies aunt mayJulie’s Aunt May is coming along…

shirley and her ducks in work, day twoShirley’s little ducklings are almost there…

patti and her flamingos day twoand Patti’s flamingos are ready to stitch.

All in all a great time with a great group.  And we are doing it again next year.  So if you want to be part of the fun, email me for more information.  Hope to see you in Arrow Rock in 2015!

space still available in Arizona workshop!

October 7th, 2014

img263

sharing

September 12th, 2014

I often get emails from former students or those who have purchased my books with photos they wish to share with me of their finished art quilts.  This is so wonderful, I just love seeing these pictures–so if you have made an art quilt from either one of my books or one of my workshops, please do share it with me.

Recently, I received an email from Yvette Piiparinen who calls herself the Poultry Princess of Pickering Ontario (there must be a story there) and she told me she had my book and attached a photo of her version of my Explorers quilt.

Whenever I teach, I always encourage students to use my technique as a guide but to make the process their own.  Well, Yvette did just that, take a look:

yvette explorers

First, and most importantly, note the addition of the rooster the boy appears to be petting.  Awesome!  The little girl now looks as if she is looking at the rooster, and the whole feeling of the image is now uniquely Yvette’s.  I love this.

But also, I want to point out the fabrics she chose for the tree–and how beautifully she created the texture of the bark.  And those little flowers in the grass.  Another aspect of this interpretation is the way she blended the horizon line into the sky.  Beautiful!  Great job!

Yvette also shared with me this beautiful art quilt of Fonzie, which she tells me was done using Caryl Bryer Fallert’s method:

 

yvette fonzie

He is gorgeous and I can see the influence of Carol’s wonderful use of color.

I want to thank Yvette for allowing me to share her work with all of you.  I see great things in her future and can’t wait to see more of what the Poultry Princess of Pickering creates.

So remember–read, take workshops, watch videos (like the Quilt Show) and learn.  But then make it your own and most of all, have fun.  And when your masterpiece is finished, please do share it with me.  It always makes my day.

keep experimenting

August 27th, 2014

I know, I haven’t written a blog post in a long time.  But it is because I have been spending time in the studio making new work and experimenting.  Experimenting, you ask?  What is there new to do?  Ah!

As we journey along in our creative endeavors, it is important to keep questioning, keep discovering and experimenting to get there.  Is this the best way to do what I do?  Can I change course just a bit to make it different–more unique, more intriguing?  What methods or materials will help me do that?

This weekend I saw a fantastic exhibition at the Clark in Williamstown, Mass. entitled “make it new, abstract painting from the National Gallery”.  Most of it was work I knew well, some I hadn’t seen in person and some I had never seen before.  That is the stuff that gets me excited.

All it takes is one piece that sparks an idea–not to copy but just a new way of looking at something that starts all those gears in the brain spinning out of control.  For me, that was a piece by an artist whose work I was not familiar with–Lee Bontecou.

Although this is not the piece in the exhibition, it is similar:

CRI_236965

What is so extraordinary about this piece is that it is dimensional, that black hole in the center is actually a hole in what looks like a hill rising out of the surface of the piece.  It is constructed of canvas pieces on a steel frame.  And looking into the hole (the poor security guard was practically vibrating as I moved close enough to look inside) it appears to be an endless void.  I can’t get this piece out of my head.

This does not mean I am about to start doing Bontecou inspired or derivative work.  But it does have me wanting to experiment with the notion of that black void–the idea of dimensionality and looking into nothing.  I love that.  Do I know what I want to do with it?  Sort of.  But the idea needs to percolate for a while until I wake up in the middle of the night with a plan to start playing with the idea.

Right now I am playing with another idea for my solo show that has been percolating for some time now and I think I know how to go about it.  But what works in my head often doesn’t do exactly what I expected in reality, which is where the experimenting comes in.  Sometimes a failed idea just needs a tweak.  Sometimes (and these are the more exciting times) it leads me to something I hadn’t even considered before.  That is what gets me all excited.

So if you are feeling uninspired–play, experiment, push the envelope and stretch to try something you hadn’t tried before.  If you like the results, figure out how to integrate it into your artistic style.  The experimenting and stretching of your creative muscles is what gets your adrenalin going.  Remember, it is all about the journey.  So go off the well traveled road for a little diversion!

 

taking photos while respecting privacy

August 12th, 2014

I am often asked about how I take photos to use in my art quilts.  This can be a slippery slope and I am always mindful of people’s privacy.  Despite the fact that many people tell me they know someone in one of my quilts, I have never found it to be the case.  This one, for example:

tourist-season

I cannot begin to tell you how many times someone tells me they know a person in this piece.  Mostly, the man with his arms crossed.  If this is the person everyone thinks he is, that guy sure gets around.  But so far, I have not had anyone place him in the city where this was shot.

What inspires me to snap a photo is usually body language.  I walk around with my camera looking for body language that tells a story, invokes a mood, or is so universally identifiable that anyone looking at the image will know exactly how that person was feeling.  Faces are interesting to me, but body language says so much about these people we do not know.  Look at the photo above, can’t you get a sense of what sort of person each of these are without even getting a clear look at their faces?  That is what attracts me.

How do I take these photos?  Mostly from a distance.  I have a small but decent camera that has a telephoto lens built in.  I set the camera at the highest resolution possible (listed in my camera menu as superfine or SF).  This means I fit fewer images on a card (the memory card I use will hold about 200 of these high res images) but it also means I can shoot from far away and when I upload the image and crop in close to the figure, I don’t loose the resolution I need to blow the image up without losing detail.

IMG_8483

 

Here is a good example.  I was standing a fair distance away when I took this photo.  I loved the man’s body language, with his arms outstretched and his feet firmly planted.  At this distance I often cannot even see clearly what I am getting, and as I have mentioned in this blog before, sometimes I am surprised to find I was getting a dirty look or in one case, the finger.

But this image was originally over 8 MB which means I was able to crop in close to the man on the bench without sacrificing detail I was going to need.  Here he is in fabric:

#3

The other thing I am always aware of is either abstracting the face enough that it is not recognizable, as I have done here, or changing it so it isn’t even the same person anymore, as I did with this photo:

IMG_8518

The woman in the red hat was far enough away that I was able to take the photo without her being aware of the camera (or me, I suspect).  But after a little fabric magic, do you think she would recognize herself here:

IMG_9792

Unlikely.  What I needed from the photo were the basics I don’t want to reinvent–the perspective, the proportions, the light and shadow.  What I was able to do on my own was a face in profile and sandals on her feet instead of sneakers.  But even those I do with a photo as a guide.  For the feet, I did an internet search for shoe sites and found a pair of feet in sandals close enough to what I needed, in the case of her profile, another image from another place served well enough.  The result is a compelling image of a woman who doesn’t exist in real life, so I can’t be embarrassing her by making her image part of my artwork.

Most of all, I am always mindful of when I might be stepping over a line and invading someone’s privacy.  If I am spotted, no matter how great that shot might have been, I put the camera back in my pocket and walk away.  Often, I will stand with my camera and wait for the right moment, sometimes I will “stage” a shot that allows me to get what I want–this usually involves my husband (if he is with me) standing off to the side looking slightly irritated while I take his picture, but I am actually taking someone near him with out being detected.  Sneaky?  Yes.  Rude?  I don’t think so.

Having a camera with me most of the time means I am able to capture moments when I see them (although the shots that got away probably still outnumber the ones I get).  The camera slips in and out of my pocket, or is around my neck while I snap a photo while appearing to just be resting my hand on the camera.  Because it is the unaware, ordinary moments that I want to capture, as soon as someone is aware of the camera, the jig is up and I move on.

Always keeping in mind that I want to respect the privacy of the people whose images I use, I am still able to get what I need without stepping over any boundaries.

do what you love, love what you do

August 9th, 2014

Sometimes, in the rush to finish pieces for exhibitions, commissions or publications, it is easy to forget what you want to do and why you want to do it.  That is why my next planned project is just for me.  I decided to put together a solo show and market it to museums, and unexpectedly (wonderfully) I was able to book it for next year even before I was finished with the pieces.  Win win.

More importantly, however, is the fact that I decided on the theme and the size and the technique because these pieces only had to please me.  When I embarked on this project earlier this year (and put it aside for a few months while I completed an unexpected but very interesting commission) they had no where to go.  They were just for me, like a large series–so far I have about twenty pieces and photos for at least thirty more.  Not sure yet when I will stop, but for now I am really enjoying the process.  And in the end, isn’t that what it is all about?

We forget while caught up in deadlines and details why we do this.  I forgot why I like working relatively small.  Now I remember.  This week alone I have completed two figures (that doesn’t mean the PIECE is finished, I am making all the figures first).  I like that they move along quickly, that I don’t have time to get tired of any one image and that I see results right away.  Some people like to spend a year on a single project.  Not me.  We are all different and have different working styles.

Want a sneak peak?  Ok, the two figures I made this week:

woman in pink jacket

I love this woman.  I took her photo while she waited at a bus stop in Brooklyn.  I can feel the weight of her life in her body language.

mother and baby

This one was a funny story.  I walked past this woman on the phone and wanted to snap her photo.  So I said (loud enough for her to hear) to my husband “hold on, I want to take a photo of that fountain over there.”  He replied, “what for, can’t you get a better picture of it from over there?”  How not to get the point!!  But by then I had the photo.  It wasn’t until I got it home that I saw she had a baby–that tiny little foot sticking out and the tip of the little head.  I loved this, like a modern Madonna and child–madonna on the cell phone.

One of the things I am trying to do these days is to tell the story behind each photo with as little detail as possible.  Broad strokes, I call it.  Here is the face of the Madonna of the cell phone:

face

I think she is so lovely.  And I am particularly pleased with the unexpected fabric in the hair.  For me, that is the fun!

Do what you love, love what you do.

garden photo shoot, behind the scenes

July 30th, 2014

About a year ago, we had a very exciting day when This Old House Magazine came to photograph our magnificent garden.  I can call it a magnificent garden because I didn’t have anything to do with it, except having the good sense to turn the project over to the very talented Robert Welsh of Westover Landscaping.

I wasn’t allowed to say anything until the article was published, so I had to keep it a secret until now.  But since the garden and the front of our house appear in the August issue of This Old House Magazine, the cat is out of the bag.

Having been a commercial photographer (back when we still used film, remember those days?), I was not unfamiliar with photo shoots.  Oh, yes, they sound glamorous, but there is a lot of tweaking and fussing and waiting.  Still, when it is all going on in your front yard, it is pretty exciting.

The writer, editor and photographer showed up early–really early–in order to get the light when it was low in the sky and cast pretty shadows.  First, Robert’s guys made sure everything looked tip top.

IMG_8966

IMG_8970

Then the “styling” took place, where to place the cup, where the chairs would be, all those little details that make the shot look perfect.

IMG_9002

The the real fun begins, including all the cars that slowed down to get a glimpse of what was going on…

IMG_8980

Every shot was meticulously considered…

IMG_8987

IMG_8993

While the photographer looked at each shot on his computer to make sure he had captured what he wanted.

IMG_8996

IMG_8976

I can’t show you the professional shots, those don’t belong to me, I can only show you what I shot that day…

IMG_8979

IMG_8985

IMG_8964

all in all a very interesting experience.  Check out the final PROFESSIONAL shots in this month’s This Old House Magazine

Aug-14-cover

art and problem solving

July 25th, 2014

When I was in school (as my kids always say, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), math and science wasn’t really taught to girls.  Yes, we were in the classroom but we weren’t really encouraged to pursue math or science as a career.  Many women of my generation did, and I applaud them for that, they were pioneers.  And many female artists started their lives in math and science.   Interesting.

When I used to teach beginner quilting I got a lot of math teachers in the summer months.  They loved the geometry of the quilts, and the rulers were their favorite tool.  Why does quilting and art attract math and science folks?  I think it is the problem solving.

So back to cute little buck toothed me in school–math was not my favorite subject, because I had to understand WHY I was using these formulas and doing these calculations.  Why do I need to find the area of a rhombus?  How many times did I ask “who came up with Pi, and how did they figure that out?”  only to be told to go back to the lesson.  In grade six the teacher was showing us how to solve some equation or another and I raised my hand and said I had a faster way to do it (for me math was all about logic and relationships).  He replied that it might have worked in that case, but it wouldn’t for others.  So I challenged him.  We did several more equations, I always finished first with the same answer.  Then came the instance that we arrived at different answers.  He concluded that was the proof that my way didn’t always work.  But someone looked it up in the back of the book and I was right.  I was sent to the principal’s office for being obstinate and my mother was called.  When she got there and the principal told her why, her response was “THAT is why you called me down here??!!?”.  Good old mom.

When my high school aptitude test came back it was math front and center.  I scoffed.  No way, I am going to find a career that doesn’t involve any math at all.  Ha.

Fast forward through all my past jobs (that did require math) to today when I am a working artist.  Artists are great problem solvers, I am always amazed at what artists are able to figure out when they hit a wall.  I think the reason for that, and the reason I didn’t respond to math the way it was taught is the same thing–artists are visual and math isn’t taught that way.  I do math in a very visual and logical way, I actually draw little diagrams and fill in the numbers.  Artists SEE differently from other people, and that is the way artists approach challenges and solve problems.

This all occurred to me this morning while working on a piece for a commission that is outside my dimensional comfort zone and has presented some interesting challenges I don’t normally face.  Consequently, I had issues to overcome, and found myself drawing my silly little diagrams and filling in the numbers.  That is when it hit me, what I do does involve math, and logic and for me the solution is always visual.

So what is the point of all this?  I needed a break and now I have no excuse not to get back to work!!!!!

 

what galleries want (I think…)

July 16th, 2014

Dolores Miller asked in a comment on my “setting goals” post why I felt my work wasn’t gallery appropriate.  Let me start by saying I never actually had a gallery tell me anything specific, so my thoughts on the subject are purely conjecture.  And if there is a gallery out there that would be interested in my work, please do get in touch!

For the most part, art is a very personal and can often be an emotional investment.  What one person responds to another might not even look at twice.  But even different kinds of art that sells in galleries seems to have one thing in common–at least and in my opinion–it is universally appealing and emotionally neutral.

This is not meant to be a negative comment, I visit galleries often and see lots of fantastic artwork –but landscapes, abstracts, geometric work, pen and ink drawings–are appealing to look at (and live with) and have a wide audience.  It is probably no surprise that offices hang lots of abstract art (often quite good abstract art) and waiting rooms are filled with ocean and woodland scenes.  No one finds them offensive, they are peaceful and relaxing and emotionally neutral.

I find it interesting that people say they know me as the artist who uses homeless people as her subject.  I find that interesting because although I have depicted homeless (or homeless looking) people in my work, I have only done it three times in a fairly large body of work.  Maybe what people remember is a wistfulness, a sadness, or perhaps an introspective quality to the themes I choose.  That isn’t an accident.  These are the images that appeal to me.  When these appeal to others, I am thrilled.  But my art may not connect with everyone and may make some people uncomfortable.  I get that.  Galleries don’t particularly want that.

Telling stories is something I like to do in my art, but when art requires the response and involvement of the viewer that connection with a potential buyer might not be as straightforward a sale as a beautiful abstract or landscape.  It saddens me to know that many people do not buy art emotionally but because it matches the sofa, or fits in a particular spot in the living room.  That makes art with themes like mine a tough sell.  Galleries aren’t looking for the tough sell.

Is there place where my work would be a good fit in a gallery setting and appeal to the clients who purchase there?  I am sure there is, I just haven’t found it yet.  If and when I do, that will be great.  I just am not spending the majority of my time looking for it.