Wednesday, March 27, 2013

another oldie but goodie...


After my last rather wordy post am going to keep it short today... A great site to look for inspiration and the best gifts ever is 1st Dibs a place that self-proclaims to advertise "the most beautiful things on earth" for sale. I have little interest in the fantasy real estate but often comb through looking for interesting objects and art. The timeless Bull's Eye beauty above was made in 1880 and is definitely ripe for reinterpretation. You can read more about this quilt and even purchase it here...



And another one listed from Gee's Bend especially for Nifty ...


Saturday, March 23, 2013

pamela allen...


Pamela Allen "Tooth Fairy"

This week I was thrilled to take a workshop with the renowned Pamela Allen. Pamela is a widely internationally exhibited and awarded textile artist who after 3 nominations was also elected Teacher Of The Year in 2012 by the International Association for Professional Quilters. She was a painter for years before switching to fabric to create her highly distinctive works.

The course I took is her introductory "Fantastic Fabric Faces". Here is the workshop description:

"Here’s a unique way to use those fabrics with large prints in small art quilts. Pamela will demonstrate a fabric collage technique that uses the shapes in large prints....such as those from sarong batiks, large linear prints or floral fantasy fabrics....as components of a portrait face.  A curling vine becomes an eye, a circle becomes a chin. Emphasis in this class will be on the creative process with less fussing about sewing techniques and traditional quilting methods."


Below is my quilt in progress. Pamela made us work very fast, improvisationally and let our subconscious dictate the imagery. Our friend Karen aptly described the process as very Jungian. My figure ended up being a woman holding a bouquet of flowers and snakes. Am not sure what it means...



We used a variety of fabrics and prints to create a head and shoulder image using the scissors as a drawing tool. We combed through our fabric scraps to look for prints that were reminiscent of facial features. When pleased with the arrangement of the fabrics we used school glue sticks to adhere the shapes to the background although in a home setting I would definitely use re-positional spray adhesive. 

My quilt is not remotely finished. There is too much orange showing in the figure and she needs some clothing to break that up. I have to finish the bouquet, work on the hair and something needs to be happening to the left of her. When happy with the design, I'll sew down down all the shapes with embroidery floss using a simple ladder or zig zag stitch. Pamela uses three strands and chooses colors that complement or contrast with the fabrics. Her technique adds a really graphic texture to the work.

Once all the shapes are attached and the embroidery is finished, the quilt will be machine quilted and then embellished with to quote Pamela "anything and everything that may add decorative qualities or augment the theme that has developed".   She is a big fan of the Dremel rotary tool and uses it to drill holes in the most unimaginable and unlikely objects to adorn her quilts. The effect is playful rather than tacky. Pamela dislikes echo type quilting or stippling. She recommends that you quilt images into the work that are related to the subject matter. In her own pieces, this complex quilting personalizes the quilts and offers hidden symbolism and depth. Below are a few finds from the dollar store that may find their way into my quilt... 





It was a super day on many levels made more special by the fact that my husband decided to take his first ever quilt class with me! M. works in film and television so is a very visual person but is decidedly not a sewer. Since there was no machine and just scissors and glue he felt confident to give art quilting a try. Here is his piece and of course it too is nowhere finished. Apparently there is going to be an abstract collection of musical instruments next to the figure. I'm pretty impressed with his effort. While often maddening M is never boring and he is always open to trying new things. I am though a little worried that in the interest of shared activities, he will now expect me to learn to skate and play hockey...



One of the most interesting parts of the Pamela Allen workshop was this design exercise to explore narrative and line. We were given a fragment of a classical painting and had to expand it to fill a smallish space in only 20 minutes. You had to work very quickly and intuitively. My battery died which is a shame because it was fascinating to see how different interpretations of the same fragment looked made by different students.


Here is my experiment:





and M's...



His fragment from Matisse's "Woman With A Veil"... 




If you ever get the opportunity you must take a class with Pamela Allen. She is teaching mainly in Europe this year but her online classes are supposed to be amazing. We'll definitely be looking into taking at least one of them. She also produced a few years ago a DVD called "Think Like An Artist" which is a reasonable substitute for taking a workshop with her. Can't express how great a day we had. Have you ever met someone truly and infectiously happy? This woman glows with vitality and joy. She is so much fun and we can all only hope to grow up to be just a bit like her...

I leave you with my favorite Pamela Allen motto of the day:

"In all you do, be fearless!"



"Fish and Chips"

Friday, March 15, 2013

too much fruit...


Just as I expected, my pineapple quilt is becoming a bit of an endurance test. It was suggested that I sew blocks together as I finish them but this is too dangerous a proposition. Am already looking at the completed ones and thinking that they would make a great crib quilt or table runner and placemats. After all, a white-based quilted item is always practical for babies and food :((  !!##$@!!!

Another issue is that for some strange mathematical reason (read miscalculation), I am making 122 blocks so am struggling a bit with the layout. To actually use on a bed- the rectangular shape is a better bet but to look at- the square one seems more appealing right now. What is keeping me going is that the finished blocks look pretty good and I do want to prove to myself that I can show some discipline and complete this quilt...



On a more positive note, to break up this routine I am very excited to be taking a class in the next couple of days with Pamela Allen whose amazing work is the antithesis of the pineapple quilt. There is not a ruler to be found on the materials list! You can see more images of this wonderful artist's creations here. Will definitely write about the experience as am sure it will be a memorable one. Have a great weekend everyone!



Wednesday, March 6, 2013

log cabin quilts and a free book...





While leaning toward the modern, the more I quilt the more I'm drawn to antique and vintage quilts many of which are timeless in design. Am at the mind-numbing stage of sewing my Pineapple blocks and have been perusing images of FINISHED quilts to spur myself on. Since the pineapple is really only a variation, I've been looking at lots of inspiring Log Cabin Quilts. While we tend to associate this pattern with early settlers of the United States and Canada, it can apparently be found in all sorts of ancient cultures including those from the Middle East, Africa and Europe.




In North American quilts, the center square is traditionally red to evoke the hearth of the home. With the winter we've had, I can only imagine how central its warmth must have been and am in awe of these people who not only survived but flourished in what must have been freezing and drafty homes.




There are innumerable settings for the this block. Straight Furrow, Streak of Lightning, Sunshine & Shadow, Barn Raising and Pinwheels are just a few of the Log Cabin variations.




What is fascinating about the Log Cabin block is that it looks beautiful made in any kind of fabrics from silk to the most humble scraps. It is amazing how modern some of these quilts look. The following two images are both of antique quilts in the same setting. (Incidentally, all of these quilts are for sale on Ebay from this amazing vendor.)







Since I'm trying to devote most of my textile book shelf space with few exceptions to books about antique, art and modern exhibition or museum quilts, I'm really excited about the rise of e-books for patterns. What a space saver! If you are interested in making a Log Cabin quilt, Fons & Porter has a great e-book available on their website. It has patterns and setting instructions for all the variations mentioned in this post and some unique ones too. As well, it contains some gorgeous shots of antique and vintage quilts. The book can be downloaded for free here.