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, appliqu├ęd 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.