15 December 2010

Onions & Garlic – finished?


The quilting is done on “Onions & Garlic”. At least it is for now. I’m not completely convinced this is the best it can be. After a few disastrous experiments with organza and embroidery thread, I decided to use Angelina fibers for the onions’ stringy roots. Hmmmm… just not sure. I’ll let it sit a few days and come back to it.

Otherwise, I enjoyed doing the quilting on this one. I used several colors of thread, scribbling and meandering on top of other colors. I still may go back and add more quilting & add more detail later.


Stay tuned… Next up: Calla Lilies!

11 December 2010

Kate Themel Featured in Arts Section of “Cheshire Patch”

I had a lovely conversation with Leslie Hutchinson, the editor of Cheshire Patch online newspaper.   We talked about art, quilting and my upcoming class at Cheshire’s “ArtsPlace”. 


Excerpted from article:

“Her exquisite works of quilt art are masterpieces that use hand-dyed cotton as canvas and thread as the drawing tool.”

Click here to Read the Full Article

Art Quilter Kate Themel of Cheshire is nationally recognized for her unusual technique.

By Leslie Hutchison | December 9, 2010

08 December 2010

Work in Progress: Garlic & Onions

The common beginning to all great meals!


Work in progress: “Garlic & Onions”, estimated size: 14” x 60” when finished.  Here is a photo of the top, not quilted.   It is the first in a planned series of “Slices”. 

The composition is based on a narrow slice of one of my photos of an open air market in Croatia.  And, no they don’t have purple garlic and bright orange & pink onions over there.  I guess I’m in some kind of phase where I make things way more colorful than they need to be.   This one borders on the abstract, but I have enough reference points in reality to keep me happy.

For me it captures the “flavor” (pardon the pun) of our times in Croatia – I don’t know why things always taste better when you’re on vacation.  Or maybe there’s something in the soil over there that makes the food so incredible.

Olive oil, onions and garlic are really the foundation of almost every meal we ate there.   But to really get an idea of our favorite Croatian food experiences, I will have to do a quilt along the lines of “Love Letter to Perfect Bread”.  

I’m getting hungry now!

29 November 2010

New Work (Sort of): “Fresh Magnolias”

Since it was not accepted into “No Holds Barred”, I guess it’s okay to share some pictures of Fresh Magnolias.  There is a story behind this one, but I’ll start from the end and show you the finished piece, actual size 17 x 27.

FreshMagnoliasBLOG(full view)


On the weekend of October 16-17, 2010 I attended a fantastic artist retreat with 8 fellow members of Fiber Revolution. We shared stories and ideas and brainstormed about how to make our work better.

One Fiber Rev inspired me to take a new look at my “old” quilts. She had taken an old quilt from home; one that she was not happy with; and proceeded to cut the binding right off. Then she took the whole thing apart, separating the top from the batting & back. From there she CUT the top into sections, using it as sort of a printed fabric rather than a quilt top. Amazing. When I saw her doing this I blurted out something like "Oh my God WHAT are you DOING??" But she calmly explained that this quilt was never going to be displayed and never given to anyone because she did not feel it represented her best work. It needed to be re-purposed.

When I got home, I realized that I have one of those quilts (Magnolias, circa 2007).  I hadn’t displayed it in my house for several years, just moved it around storage areas. I should have seen the red flag – if I don’t want it hanging on my walls, who will?   It didn’t help matters that there was some kind of light brown dot in the middle of it which could be something like a coffee stain.  I have no idea how that got there but apparently I have not been taking care of this quilt very well.

Magnolias2007SMformatBut I couldn’t get rid of it because it was my first photo-inspired art quilt. Plus I painted all those magnolia flowers myself, turned the edges, appliquéd them… it was a lot of work!

Unfortunately after all that labor I added a way-too-saturated magenta border.  I wanted the flowers to look delicate and breezy but instead they just looked weak.  Blechhh.  

And the buds always reminded me of Christmas tree light bulbs. Sheeesh.   

I’ll admit I was scared of “wasting” all the time, effort and fabric it took to make the first one.  But in reality, if you do nothing but keep a quilt folded in a storage area, it’s already wasted work.  Why not change it?  It’s not going anywhere.

I knew I could make the whole thing again if I REALLY wanted to – hand painted flowers, big border and all.  So in the end there was nothing to lose.

Inspired by Deb’s daring act of cutting up her quilt at the retreat, I took a rotary cutter and removed the whole border area. Better!! But it was still kind of “ehh”. There was a lot of dead weight in the composition.

So I trimmed it further, getting rid of the light bulby buds, tightening up the scene and giving those magnolias a nice place to live. Okay now we’re getting somewhere!

Magnolias2007_detail1 But still one thing remained that bothered me about the original: the lack of quilting within the flowers. I didn’t want to cover up all my hand-painting! But the truth was staring me in the face. I wanted more thread & quilting to give it some muscle. Another Fiber Rev’s voice rang in my ears “Don’t be so precious with your work that you can’t change it.”

So I merrily quilted the thing within an inch of its life... and a smaller yet much stronger piece emerged! The new one has the light, falling effect I wanted in the first place.  But the flowers are not taking a back seat to the background or the border. 

I liked it so much I entered it into “SAQA: No Holds Barred”.  But you know how the story ends, and it didn’t make it in to that show.

No worries.  It looks great hanging in my studio.

18 November 2010

“Boatman” is going to UK

I’m thrilled to announce: my art quilt Boatman Sketch has been selected to tour with “SAQA: Beyond Comfort”!   Curated by Eileen Doughty, the show will premiere at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England in August 2011

Themel_BoatmanSketchThis exhibit challenges each artist to venture into uncharted territories of creative expression by turning away from the comfort zones of their established body of work. It provides a "permission slip" to experiment fearlessly with radically new conceptual and narrative agendas; to employ techniques, technologies, or materials. The artistic goal of the exhibition is to encourage reaching beyond comfort to make new and unexpected works of art.

Juror Marci Rae McDade selected 30 quilts out of 209 submitted.  I’m happy to say that two friends & fellow SAQA members will be included as well: Diane Wright and Martha Wolfe

The next step is to take catalog-quality photos, add a hanging sleeve on the back and ship it to the show organizers.   Starting from Birmingham in August 2011, the show will travel for about a year.

Related post:


15 November 2010

New Work: “So How Does it Feel to Turn 40?”

That was the question that started me on a tangent leading to this piece, my first real (not cartoony) self portrait.  A friend asked me how it felt to be turning 40.  For the life of me I couldn’t come up with a coherent answer, and I think it has been nagging at me for a while. SelfPortrait_SM

The best way I can describe my feelings are a mass of contradictions.  I feel young and old at the same time.  I’m more excited about life & possibilities than ever before and yet I’m much calmer than I was at age 20.  I get tired more quickly, and yet I get much more done during a typical day.

Weird, huh?

Such a clear vision of the answer was forming in my mind, even though I could not pin it down to words.   I could see the whole thing coming together piece by piece.  This almost NEVER happens, so of course I had to run to the studio to get started!  Scrapping all other projects (temporarily) I started this self portrait on Friday and finished it on Sunday.

I’m not going to analyze the finished piece in too great detail; except to say that it does what I wanted it to do.  It’s hot & cold, calm and frantic, layered, complicated, not quite symmetrical, slightly frayed along the edges but still strong.  Like me!

The style represents a distinct break from my past work, but I’m not saying I intend to go with this style from now on.
These flat, solid, saturated colors are not my normal palette. And when have I EVER used this much yellow? Maybe never before; maybe never again. But for some reason it made sense for this. My least favorite color takes up so much space it cannot be ignored. Therefore the only way I can stand it is if I see the whole thing in balance and not zoom onto the unattractive parts.
A metaphor for my life.

“Untitled” describes how I feel about being 40 years old.  The good and bad.  But mostly good I think.


08 November 2010

Update: “Lemme See!” is Complete

TelescopeUnquilted_BLOGSo here it was at the point where it was ready to be quilted. Lately I’m leaving more "open" space. Meaning, I don’t add as many small pieces of fabric to create all the variations of color and shading. Once I have enough broad color to work with, I typically fill in the rest with thread. It's always a question of how simple can I make it before it loses impact?

I find it helpful to take photos during the process. That way I can view them on a screen at a much smaller size (pretending I'm seeing it from far away). I can usually tell if the picture is getting across, and whether or not adding more pieces will add to the overall composition. 

After viewing this photo and getting feedback from some family members, I removed a lot of the dark shadow under Luka’s chin.  It looked too much like a beard – not really appropriate for a 5 year old.

So now the fun part….  I quilted it within an inch of its life as usual. 

Then I used free motion quilting to “draw” in our favorite places and familiar haunts in Croatia.  The detail below depicts a view from St. Mary’s belfry on Rab Island, from our most recent trip.

The  background is filled with the typical geography of the Croatian coastline: smooth stones instead of sand, long horizon with hints of islands in the distance.

Overall I’m very happy with the final piece.



21 October 2010

Next Croatia Quilt

TelescopeORIGHere’s the inspiration for my next quilt in the Croatia series…. tentatively named “Lemme See” and featuring my two sons.

I know I said I’d keep my family out of my blog.  But this piece is more about the relationship of big & little brothers than a real family portrait.  Besides, do you know how much it costs to hire child models?  These guys work for free!   LOL

Maybe I wanted to move onto this photo because of the bright colors – I guess all those drab grays in “Safe Passage” got me wanting some red white and blue (which are coincidentally the colors of both the US and Croatian flags).

So here are the first broad areas of color for the quilt top.  I kept giggling to myself as the pieces fell into place.  That spiky saw-tooth hair was a bit of a pain to cut, but it really makes the picture for me. 


I decided to remove a lot of the original background and concentrate on the two figures.  I’m not sure if I’ll add anything in its place; it doesn’t matter what they’re looking at.

Sorry other family members… love ya but you’re cut from the scene.  Better luck next time!

18 October 2010

“Big Dandy” is going to Quilt National!!!

Oh my gosh I am SO excited, and I just can’t hold it in any longer.  I have to share the joy…

My quilt “Dandelion” was chosen to be exhibited in Quilt National 2011!!  This piece took me almost a year to complete, and measures 33 x 49.   It is in my personal style, raw edge appliqué with lots of colors and small pieces, covered in obsessive machine quilting.  As you might have guessed, the image is inspired by a dandelion plant. 

You won’t find my usual work-in-progress pictures of this one.  I’m sorry that I can’t share photos yet; QN rules prevent any images of selected work from being published before the show.  You can bet I’m not going to do anything to get kicked out now.   So you’ll have to wait until May 28, 2011 to get a glimpse!  After that you can order the QN ‘11 catalog, visit the show, or wait until I get back and I’ll post it online.

Last week was a little nerve racking, because I had to ship the quilt to The Dairy Barn Arts Center in Ohio for final approval & so QN can photograph it for the catalog.  I received confirmation that it arrived safely and met with approval from the organizers.  (Whew!!) Wow, I still didn’t believe it until I looked on their website and saw my name listed.


The exhibition runs from May 28 – September 5, 2011.  Some of the pieces will be selected to continue on with their traveling exhibition through 2013.

The Dairy Barn Arts Center
8000 Dairy Lane
Athens, OH 45701

13 October 2010

New Work: “Safe Passage” is Complete

"Porthole" is complete... but I’ve changed the title to "Safe Passage". SafePassage_blog

I'm very happy with the way it came out, and how quickly everything came together.  Here's a photo of the finished piece.

I'll include a detail of the quilting but I'm not sure if it will be readable at this size.
I'm pretty sure I will do another piece with some kind of rust in it. For some reason, orange is appealing to me right now. Maybe it's the change of seasons.

Which might also explain my next composition "Maple Leaf".  It is a very simple pattern, just 2 fabrics. But I'm choosing two pretty bold patterns to bounce off each other. One is multi-colored with a lot of purples and greens, the other is a bright orange and pink batik. Sounds nuts? Yeah, it might be. But at least it won't take long to put together. The real fun will be the quilting - that's when I'll add all those tiny leaf veins.

This weekend I'm heading to NY for an artists retreat. I'll put together the pieces for Maple Leaf so I can take that with me and work on it. If I finish that one this weekend I'll be ahead of schedule for the month. My goal is to finish 2 pieces that are 24 x 32 each. Maple Leaf will only be 24 x 24 so I'll try to get one more started by the end of the month.  Stay tuned!

06 October 2010

Sneak Peek

I made a lot of progress on “Valbiska-Lopar Ferry Porthole” this week.   Gotta come up with a better title!

Porthole_unquilted (2)As I was studying the photo and trying to sketch it out, I noticed that the circle is not a perfect circle and the composition is not quite symmetrical.  Hmmm, it could work.

I also found there is a lot of slate blue/ steel gray/ washed-out jeans kind of colors in this picture.   At first I almost put the project aside…who wants to see that much dull cloudy gray?  But I found some batiks that were in the right color family and too pretty not to use.  So there you go.

I also realized that the chipped & rusty paint around the porthole is my favorite part… more interesting than the view through it.  And somehow the orange rust makes all that gray/blue acceptable.

So now Stage 1: "broad strokes of color” = complete.   Here’s a partial look at it.

Next up: My favorite part – free motion quilting it, scribbling in more rusty details, adding ripples in the water…  Fun!!

04 October 2010

New Work: “Boatman Sketch”

DSCN2045My entry for "SAQA: Beyond Comfort".   The theme of this show is experimentation.  Artists are asked to create something outside their normal style.  

(I just finished the online entry process. Not bad for me... 6 days before the entry deadline!)

The back-story on this piece: 
Boatman Sketch was inspired by a photo my brother took last year. 

I will be teaching a class on free motion machine quilting, so I had to come up with an 8x10 example to demonstrate each lesson.

One of the lessons is on thread "drawing". I decided to see how far I could push that. What if I drew an entire picture with free hand quilting stitches?  My sewing machine became a substitute for charcoal pencil.  But since I can't press harder/softer on the charcoal to create dark & light lines, I used different shades of thread.

Here is the final piece. It’s on satin brocade fabric, which is shiny and a little hard to photograph.  I chose satin because the original photo has a cool sense of light & I was trying to capture some of that.
I'll include a detail too. Keep in mind the whole thing is only the size of a standard sheet of paper, so these stitches are REALLY small.

It was an interesting experiment but I'm not sure if I will attempt a larger one.  My eyes are bugging now. :-)


29 September 2010

Artsplace Teachers’ Art Show: Friday, Oct. 8th (Cheshire, CT)

ARTSPLACETeachersShow2010Cheshire Performing & Fine Arts, Artsplace presents:

Teachers’ Art Show

Friday October 8th

5:00- 8:30 pm

CPFA Artsplace (upstairs)

1220 Waterbury Road

Cheshire, CT 06410

(203) 272-2787 / (203) 272-ARTS

I’m proud to have 2 quilts included in this special multi-media exhibition.  “Weighing the Options” will be on public display for the first time and “Ode to a Kiss” is just back from the Whistler House Museum of Art (Lowell, MA).

Please join me at Artsplace on Friday, October 8th!

27 September 2010

REMINDER: Opening Reception for “Intertwined” is FRIDAY Oct 1st, 6 – 8PM at the NAC Co-Op Gallery (Norwich, CT)

Please join me at the NAC Co-operative Gallery this Friday!

Opening Reception Friday, October 1st, from 6 to 8 PM 

Intertwined Fiber Arts Invitational

NAC_IntertwinedFiber Art and textiles in every fantastic form!  Four artists who specialize in fiber art have been invited to exhibit their work in the NAC Gallery.

Check NAC’s website for Gallery hours and directions

The NAC Cooperative Gallery

60 Broadway

Norwich, CT 06360

(860) 887-2724

“Poison Dart” - SOLD

Themel_PoisonDartI’m happy to announce: Poison Dart, the art quilt I donated to SAQA was sold during part 1 of the 2010 Benefit Auction.    I hope the new owners will enjoy seeing it their home or office as much as I enjoyed making it. 

Part 1 of SAQA’s Auction ended on September 26th.  Part 2 begins TODAY, with 96 new quilts now up for bid.  Check them out on SAQA’s website:

Last year's Benefit Auction raised $47,325. The funds raised through the Auction are critical to supporting SAQA's exhibitions, catalogs and outreach programs. 

“How Do I Get One of These Beautiful Works of Fiber Art?”

You bid by filling out the online bid form (which is "live" now until the auction ends). You can bid on up to 7 pieces at a time. The first bid on each piece wins!  SAQA will then ship the artwork to the winning bidder by insured USPS Priority Mail.

If you missed the deadline to purchase a quilt from Part 1, there is still a chance for you to grab one.  Unsold pieces will be for sale at the SAQA Store through the end of October. If they are still unsold at that time, they will be returned to the artist.


24 September 2010

Inspiration for the NEXT one…


I took this photo on a ferry from Valbiska, Krk to Lopar, Rab (two Croatian islands).  I clicked it on a whim while I was waiting for my cousins to stand together and pose near the railing (I took their photo a minute after this).  

For some reason I just love the rusty streaks and bolts that look like they’ve been painted and repainted a million times. 

I know by fine art standards it’s not a good idea to have the focal point, especially a circle, dead center in the composition like a bull's-eye.  But I’m going to try it anyway.

22 September 2010

“Options” is complete!

DSCN1987As promised, I am posting my Wednesday check-in.  The short & sweet news: Weighing the Options is complete – with the exception of the binding.  Still debating what to do with that; I’m testing out different colors or considering folding the edges toward the back with no binding at all.

The free-motion quilting on this project was so much fun.  It was almost like stream-of-consciousness journal writing.  Some of the images I admit I drew on water soluble stabilizer first and then used them as a template to sew on the lines.  Okay, I couldn’t sew the O’Brien Coat of Arms just freehand on the machine, so sue me!  :-)

Inspired by my Celtic heritage and its mythology, I included the coiled serpent, representing transformation and untapped power.  And the twin salmon representing wisdom and longevity.  (detail photos below).  Other symbols are straight forward like the scissors and thread and the clock.

But most of the writing within the meandering stitches were random thoughts that occurred to me in the moment.   It was so therapeutic – like meditation.  Some of my ‘note to self’ messages include stuff like “be kind” and “get more sleep” and “roll with the punches”.  The more I stitched, the calmer I became.  Too bad I ran out of room….  maybe I’ll have to start another journal quilt.   But that is another topic for another day.KThemel_WeighingOptionsDetailBLOG5 KThemel_WeighingOptionsDetailBLOG4

20 September 2010

Hidden Messages

Weighing the Options is coming along nicely.  Working on the final quilting now.  I’ll probably just finish it in time for the deadline, but what else is new?KThemel_WeighingOptionsDetailBLOG3 

Here’s something that has emerged while I’ve been sewing…  I realized that I don’t believe in the term “Reinvent Yourself”.  Reinvent?  What am I, the bionic woman?  Stronger, Faster, Better!   Yeah, I wish.

IF I could reinvent myself, I’d definitely make me out of some kind of non-wrinkle, fat resistant, indestructible material with UV protection.  I’d add cool features too, like X-ray Vision, Mind Reading and Time Travel.   Maybe I’d even make myself taller!  But the truth is, I’ve got to work with what’s already here. 

What I do believe in is “Recognizing the truth about yourself”.  I don’t think people change who they are.  Not really, not their true selves.  But there are many facets to each person.  Some character traits shine all the time; others nervously shuffle around the back of our minds forever, others burst out during a crisis and surprise everyone.  

So all is not lost.  I can only be who I am…  BUT maybe I don’t know everything about myself yet. KThemel_WeighingOptionsDetailBLOG2

Trying to define my identity has put me into a maze of self reflection.   So as I stitch the quilting lines, I’m writing a few “messages” to myself with thread.  Some things that I want to remember as I go through the  process (Details, right)  Trying to decide ‘who to be’ – maybe it would be better to find out what I like about the person who’s already here… nurture those traits. 

I guess I’ve matured past the fantasy of being someone else, or inventing a new Me.   Besides, what would I do with the old me?

16 September 2010

Weighing Options


So here I am.  Asking myself “Who am I now?” and “What do I want?” not to mention “Is it true that life begins at 40?”

Sometimes there are so many possibilities you can become frozen.  I would call it a classic identity crisis – but crisis is not the right word.  I don’t feel worried or lost, in fact I feel quite peaceful here in my own personal limbo.  Maybe rather than a Crisis, I’ll call it an “Identity Pause Button”?  Not sure where I’m going with this obviously, but I’m enjoying the process. 

Now I’m attempting to interpret this strange time in a quilt for the “Identity” exhibition of fiber art at Windsor Art Center.   

One thing I know is that I am an artist at heart and I want to make it a career.  But how do I translate that into a practical plan?  Earning a living as an artist: should I concentrate on teaching? get an agent to sell my work, try to market myself with a signature style?  Sell how-to books, update my website into a full fledged online store?  See – too many possibilities! 

KThemel_WeighingOptionsDetailBLOGThat’s why my Identity quilt is a bit of a jumble – it has a rough order to it but pieces are overlapping and not quite structured.  Things are kind of floating out there.   The working title is Weighing the Options.   Here’s a sneak peak (photos are work in progress).  In the quilting lines are words and pictures that have meaning to me – they represent my perception of myself now, and who I could be.  I have more to add; will post a final photo when it’s done.  Just trying to sort my thoughts for now.  Hopefully I can get my life’s vision or at least my quilt vision in focus before the entry deadline!

15 September 2010

Starting a New THREAD

This year my older son started High School and the younger one started Kindergarten.  As I watched the school bus drive away I had this weird feeling… like my mommy job has been downgraded from full-time to part-time.   Something has definitely shifted – the baby days are over.  One part of me feels old and nostalgic; the other part feels like a kid graduating from college, full of ideas and setting out to find a job. 

But since kindergarten is only 3 hours a day, I still feel tied to the stay at home role for one more year.  This is like a ‘pass’ year.  It’s an in-between.   I’m here for the kids when they’re home.  But I also have a bit of freedom in the day to be alone.  Next year when they’re both in school all day, I will be faced with the new weekday reality.  I can’t justify the title Stay at Home Mom when there’s no one home with me for 6 – 7 hours.  There will be enough space in my day for a full time job.  So what should that job be?

This year is a blessing.  It’s like a time-out so I can think and plan the next move.  I fully realize that not  everyone has the luxury of choice, especially in this economy.  For some people, choosing to pursue a career as a professional artist may seem selfish or even stupid.  But I believe in that old expression, something like Do what you love and the money will follow…

So I’ve decided to make a career in art.  Full Time.  Part of that means I’ll have to pay more attention to the practical business of making art… treat it like a “real job”. 

First step is to use my 3 hours a day as my regular working hours.  That means studio time EVERY day!  (I’m yelling at myself here, not you innocent readers). 

At least once a week I’ll update the blog.  Why have a blog if it’s going to just sit there unchanged?  That’s what a website is for!  And I already have one of those.  :-) Okay, so I’ve decided to chronicle the year via blog.   Writing helps me clarify my thoughts anyway.  Hopefully as time goes on I’ll zero in on a solid plan for the future.

Realization 1:  My life is a complicated balance of individual and family priorities.  However, this blog is dedicated to my own artistic journey.  Other than being the catalyst for artistic expression, I’ll keep my family stuff out of my posts.

Realization 2: It’s time to go to the bus stop, so my studio time is up.  Man, these days are shorter than I thought!  Note to self: Work on Efficiency.

14 September 2010

“Intertwined” Fiber Arts Invitational

The Norwich Arts Council (NAC) Cooperative Gallery Presents:

INTERTWINED Fiber Arts Invitational

NAC_IntertwinedFiber Art and textiles in every fantastic form!  Four artists who specialize in fiber art have been invited to exhibit their work in the NAC Gallery.

Come to the Opening Reception on Friday, October 1st, from 6 to 8 PM 

Enjoy this beautiful and varied collection of work by Connecticut fiber artists:

Hooked Rugs by Liz Alpert Fay

Art Quilts by Kate Themel

Felt Work by Roz Spier

Hand-Printed Textiles by Lauren Cotton

“Intertwined” will be on display at NAC Cooperative Gallery October 1 – 30, 2010

Check NAC’s website for Gallery hours and directions

The NAC Cooperative Gallery

60 Broadway

Norwich, CT 06360

(860) 887-2724

14 July 2010

Nope, guess I haven’t learned…

Themel_OdeToKissDetailWell I managed to get “Ode to a Kiss” on its way to the Whistler House Museum of Art just under the wire.  Once again I had to pay for rush shipping, but it should be there tomorrow (the deadline for deliveries is July 15).  

Since I finished this quilt in 2008 it’s hard to believe I couldn’t get it to Lowell much earlier!

In my defense, it did take a long time to figure out how to ship a wooden dowel along with it – the quilt is 46” wide and a hanging dowel needed to be 44” long.   Kind of an awkward box to mail.  Mailing tubes were just a little too narrow.  The quilt is like 5 feet long so I couldn’t roll it tight enough to fit the tube.  By July 12th I was starting to panic.  

PaintHandlesBut then my engineer husband came up with a brilliant plan!  We used wooden dowel extenders (see photo, left).   We used 3 extension handles; sawed off the end to get the correct length & smoothed it out with sandpaper.  Then we just added eye screws to the 2 ends.   When they are all assembled, it makes a perfect wooden dowel rod all the way across and meets the Whistler’s requirements for hanging.  Yea!

Then I unscrewed them so the pieces fit into a 6 x 12 x 18 box.  I think it’s a great solution – hopefully it won’t cause any issues for the hangers at the Whistler.

07 July 2010

Just in Time – Got my auction quilt to SAQA

Whew!  Talk about last minute!   The deadline for donations was July 1st and I got it there ON the day, by Overnight FedEx.   I was sewing the hanging sleeve on the back of it 20 minutes before the FedEx guy was supposed to come and pick it up!  I have GOT to get more organized.  :-)

In any case, here he is Mr. Frog “Poison Dart” himself…  ready to do his part for Studio Art Quilt Associates.

Check SAQA’s website to see all the donated artwork:  My quilt is on page 1b


How the Auction Works

There are over 200 Benefit Auction quilts donated by our members. The SAQA 2010 Benefit Auction will begin on Monday, September 20th at 2:00 Eastern Time and conclude on Saturday, October 9 at 2:00 Eastern.

Last year's Benefit Auction raised $47,325. The funds raised through the Auction are critical to supporting SAQA's exhibitions, catalogs and outreach programs.


01 July 2010

Fiber Art Exhibition at Windsor Art Center – Registration is Open for “Identity”


SAQA Artists in CT, RI and MA are invited to participate in an upcoming Fiber Art Exhibition at the Windsor Art Center (Windsor, CT)


Through fiber art and sculpture, artists share the memorable experiences and traditions that have shaped their personal identity.

Registration is Open NOW

No Entry Fee

Deadline for Entries October 1, 2010

Identity is a non-juried show, open to all current SAQA members who live in Connecticut, Massachusetts or Rhode Island.  

Exhibition Dates: January 22 - March 5, 2011

Contact Kate Themel for a copy of the prospectus

The Windsor Art Center is located at the Freight House:

40 Mechanic Street
Windsor, CT 06095-2522
(860) 688-2528

02 June 2010

From Fine Art to Fiber – Reinterpreting the Masters at the Whistler

Themel_OdeToKiss I’m pleased to announce:

My quilt Ode to a Kiss will be on display at the Whistler House Museum of Art as part of their upcoming exhibition “From Fine Art to Fiber”.  The show will run from August 4 to September 4, 2010.

Whistler House

243 Worthen Street

Lowell, MA

The exhibit will consist of quilts inspired by famous works of art including paintings, murals, and sculpture — from Michelangelo to Warhol and beyond. 

Ode to a Kiss (see image, upper left) was inspired by the painting “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt.

20 March 2010

Reception TONIGHT at the Funky Monkey Cafe

Fiber Art by Kate Themel at

The Funky Monkey Cafe & Gallery

Artist Reception

Saturday, March 20th

7 to 9 pm


“Fiber Art by Kate Themel” will run March 1 - 29, 2010

The Funky Monkey Cafe & Gallery

130 Elm Street

The Watch Factory Shoppes

Cheshire, CT 06410

Check for gallery hours:

05 March 2010

4 Hour Art Quilt

ProjectPears_blogThis 12x12 art quilt took less than 4 hours to make – start to finish, including the binding.  I actually set a time limit for myself when I made it. Why would someone do that, you ask?  One reason: Just to see if I could do it.

More important reason: Today I led the first day of a two-day workshop and I wanted to see if my patterns and instructions were going to work – so I followed them myself.  My goal is for the students to take home a completed art quilt. No UFOs (Unfinished Fabric Objects) from my class!

We will have a total  of 6 hours for the workshop so I estimated if I can do a complete quilt, not rushing, in 4 hours then the class can get it done in 6 (allowing for instructions, questions, discussion etc).  Even though the composition is pretty simple – two pears on a whole cloth background – there is a lot of room for creativity.


The students came up with color combinations that were entirely different from one another.  Each one reflected the student’s personality and taste.  The quilting will distinguish each one even further.  As i told my class, a fiber artist’s quilting line is like handwriting – unique to each person, revealing a little bit about the quilter.  

The background on “Still Life, Pears” is a solid light-purple fabric.  So when I first put the top together, it looked a little cold and boring.  I added the flowers and tile shapes using free motion stitching and a variegated purple thread.  The brown binding edge gave it a little more warmth as well.

I love to “quilt the heck out of” my compositions.  I fill them with dense stitching, close lines and swirls, until the quilt itself is practically flat.  What does this reveal about my personality, I wonder?  Maybe that I’m an obsessive control freak….  maybe it’s saying I’m “dense”...?  I guess it’s for others to interpret.  In any case, I find the process itself so enjoyable that I end up losing myself in it…  Until I get to the point where there’s no room left for any more thread.  ProjectPears_detail_blog

(Detail images of stitching, right)

Putting together the top took about 90 minutes and the rest of the time I spent on quilting.  It was so fun to see this piece come together in just a few hours!

I’m thinking I might try to challenge myself to do more of these quick-timed quilts more often.  As I looked at my students’ work today, I marveled at the possible color combinations & use of stitching.  Using the same exact cutting pattern, I wonder what kinds of designs I could come up with.  A photo-negative?  Psychedelic?  Black & white or monochromatic?  Maybe something in a Matisse fauve style…  

Why not?  


03 March 2010

Funky Monkey Cafe & Gallery, Artist Reception March 20

Fiber Art by Kate Themel at

The Funky Monkey Cafe & Gallery

Artist Reception

Saturday, March 20th

7 to 9 pm


“Fiber Art by Kate Themel” will run March 1 - 29, 2010

The Funky Monkey Cafe & Gallery

130 Elm Street

The Watch Factory Shoppes

Cheshire, CT 06410

Check for gallery hours:

Frogs find a home at the Monkey

So now The Funky Monkey Cafe & Gallery show is hung up and I think the frog portraits look good as a group. I received a lot of positive feedback from viewers as I was putting them together.   I love being back at the Funky Monkey!  The gallery space is so pretty and nicely lit; it makes anything you hang there look great.  

I made a few changes to the frog portraits right before hanging them.  I sewed each one to fabric and wrapped it over 14" stretcher bars, using a grey and black batik with a subtle leaf pattern on it.FrogWall_blog
Keeping the stretched fabric consistent added a bit of cohesion to the group. Also, as a way of adding interest to the three "weaker" frogs, I hung them on a diagonal. Those guys are growing on me now.
I wasn't ready to ditch any of them and glad I gave them a chance.

Also, the green striped frog was bothering me before, so I added an extra toe on his front foot. Don't ask me why, it just made me feel better.
Anyway, here's how they look on the wall together. (image right) 
I'll continue to do a few more of these because I haven't exhausted my stash of possible frog personalities yet.  

But just as a change of pace, I’m now working on a still life of 2 pears.  It’s a very simple 12x12 composition & I’m timing myself to have it finished within 4 hours.  So far I finished the top and had it ready to quilt in about 90 minutes.  Why have it done in under 4 hours?  I’ll be using it as the demonstration project for the ArtsPlace workshop.  We have 6 hours for the workshop so I’m estimating if it takes me 3-4 hrs, the class will be able to get it done in 6, then they can go home with a finished quilt.

26 February 2010



Sentinel came together pretty quickly.  I didn’t spend a lot of time picking the colors; this blue/green batik was lying next to the hot pink and I just really liked the combination.  The only time spent on colors was finding a lighter pink for the frog’s belly. 

I decided not to distract from the combo by adding another color for the tree branch.  Instead, I used quilt stitching to create the branch’s dimension (see detail).  Sentinel_blogDetail


I did keep Sentinel’s eye his natural color, unlike the rest of the composition.  It just seemed unnecessary to mess with it. 

Next up? …with only 2 days left before the Funky Monkey show, I guess the next Frog Portrait may be the last of this batch.   Stay tuned for the closer.  :-)


25 February 2010



"Empress" is finished - this chubby little frog looked so bored and pampered the name came easily. I decided to go with a regal color to match her name & personality.

In fact I was SO industrious today that I almost finished the 3rd portrait (or 6th in the series overall). "Sentinel" might just become my new favorite.  I'll admit, I'm having much more fun with the latest ones. And I do love those weird frog toes, can’t help it.

I'm finding that even though I am not as fond of the first 3 in this series, they seem to look better within the whole group. As I add more, I'll decide who will "make the cut" for my solo show. But they might be okay all together, some looking out and others off to the side. We'll see how it all shakes out March 1st.

Too bad for my family - they barely see me except at meal times - and I think my husband is wondering what the heck this obsession with frogs is all about. Well, these manic days won't last much longer. Thursday 2/25 I'm setting up the Fiber Revolution show at NVCC and then Monday 3/1 is the Funky Monkey solo show. After that, I may go back to normal business hours.  Maybe….