Sunday, October 23, 2016

New Zealand Textile Arts at Te Papa

Wellington's Te Papa Museum is one of my favourite spots in this city. Last week was my third visit there, and I see new things each time I go. A collection of "kete" woven baskets caught my eye this time, as well as a display of woven and threaded skirts and capes. The threadwork on some of the capes looks almost contemporary. Which makes me wonder how much is really new under the sun. I could also see a similarity between these baskets or bags and those I have seen in a number of African countries - all made use of the materials at hand to make necessary items, but also have adde, touches to make them beautiful and not just functional. Not so very different from quilting.

This gorgeous stained-glass window is also in Te Papa, and echoes the lines of the "Marae", or meeting hut, which is located just behind it. 
I love the lines of this woven mat, with the progression of colouring through the length of it.
But my favourite part of this visit, of course, was spending time with Emily and Michael and Griffin. This pic was taken at a maritime education centre, which had pools of se life and allowed for handling of snails and sea urchins and the like. Just the thing when you're 10 months old!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Cyanotype Images, or Working with Leaves in a New Way

Last summer on a warm, sunny day, with almost no breeze, I played with Cyanotype for the first time. Fabric that has already been prepared can be purchased, and images achieved by exposing them to the light for 15-20 minutes, and then rinsing them in water. The trick is to keep whatever you have placed on top of the fabric perfectly still during that time - no easy task, as I discovered! And whenever the leaves moved, it created a shadow on the fabric.
For my first few pieces, I worked with pressed eucalyptus leaves, maple leaves and willow leaves, and a few other things that were not so successful. Having committed to making a piece for the next Fibre Art Network Exhibit, entitled "Botanical Reflections", it took very little time to decide to work with the eucalyptus leaves for my entry.
I decided to highlight the leaves with a contrasting colour, and chose red. Before I began stitching, I sandwiched the cyanotype print with a layer of thin, wool blanket, and pinned it in place. I don't use an embroidery hoop when I stitch, and the layer of wool gives the piece the stability it needs so it doesn't become distorted.

I began byIoutline-stitching the leaves with #8 perle cotton, and then added the long lines with two strands of embroidery floss. Now I have two of these completed, along with three of the African fabric squares below, in which I had highlighted bits of each with the same red perle cotton that I used in the leaf stitching.
And now comes the fun part - figuring out how to put it all together. There will be a little more red, and a variety of indigo prints, and I'll use improvisational piecing, and see where it takes me. Stay tuned . . .  

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Fabric of Life - A Visit to the Wellington Quilters' Exhibition

Although I hadn't planned it this way, I fortuitously arrived in Wellington (New Zealand) just in time for their quilt exhibition. Held in the Wellington Academy of Fine Arts, a marvellous venue that allowed one to stand back and actually see and appreciate the quilts, it was a week-long affair, and I thought I'd share just a few of my favourite pieces. The first is made by Jenny Hall, and is called "They are Bees not Flies", the meaning of which becomes clear when the red fabrics of the third border are examined closely. It received the "Best Traditional Quilt" award.

Next is "Waste and Renewal II", made by Fyvie Murray, which received the "Excellence in Quilting" award. I loved the colourful circles, almost like bubbles, emerging from the turquoise background in this.

This one is Frances Velvin's gorgeous "Aotearoa II - Kiwis in the Sun". It was given the award for "Excellence in Use of Colour". I especially like the outide border designs - very Kiwi.

And lastly here's my favourite of all, "Street Lights Through the Fog", made by Jill Bowman. I stood in front of this for a very long time, and was pleased to see it was given the "Best Contemporary Quilt" award, although I found a quilt of a sunset made by the same person just as stunning. As well as viewing the quilts, I was able to chat with a few fellow quilters, and altogether was made to feel very welcome and at home at the exhibit. And now that I have my own little sewing area set up in the bedroom I'm calling home for the month of October, all is right in my world. Spending time with my daughter and her family, including almost 10 month old Griffin, is pretty sweet too! 

Friday, September 30, 2016

African Fabric Month

Today is the last day of September, and I just learned that it's African Fabric Month. (Who decides these things anyway?) Anyway, it seems a propitious day to resume my blogging, and to celebrate my recent return to working with the intense, unusual, dynamic and oh-so-African fabrics that I have collected over the years. This quilt is called An African Journey, and was the first quilt I designed using the fabrics that my dear Sweetie had been bringing me back from Uganda for a number of years in the 90's. And not surprisingly, this quilt is still one of my favourites.

Alice Asiimwe (holding the quilt in the photo) made African Lightening during the nine years we worked with her and with the Bitengye Designers in southern Uganda. On a previous visit I had brought her a book of quilt patterns, and she presented me with this stunning quilt when we returned the following year. It's a terrific example of how large swaths of African wax fabrics can be combined with solid black fabric, yielding dramatic results. The mix of primary colours in the African fabrics also contributes to the success of this quilt.

"Who Will Make the Clothing" was my contribution to a fund-raising event for the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which gives assistance to women who are grandmothers and widows in Africa, due to HIV/AIDS. It was based on a photo I took of a woman in the market in the town of Mbarara, sewing away on her treadle sewing machine against a backdrop of the African fabrics she was offering for sale.  A not uncommon sight in most countries in Africa.

During the years I operated Kitambaa Designs, I did much of my fabric shopping at Nalugo Traders in Kampala. The "real wax" fabrics I purchased there came in flat folds of 6 or 12 yards, and we always had terrific fun choosing the "rolls" to bring home with us to sell in Canada. The young woman or man helping us would climb up on the desk until she/he could reach the fabric we had chosen, and bring it down to add to our pile, seen here on the left.

The most wonderful place of all to see the fabrics, however, is when it is being worn by African women. Sometimes made into a full garment and sometimes worn as a wrap around their middle, on top of a more North American dress, they all look beautiful to me, as seen in this group of widows and grandmothers from Kikagate.

This grandmother holding her grandchild, the child's parents having died from "Slim", is another example of how gorgeous these fabrics are when worn by African women. I've seen lots of white women wear African fabric garments, and have several myself, but somehow they never look quite the same. But with so many people these days having experienced visits to Africa or having worked in various African countries, we are more and more likely to want to give voice to this time in the making quilts that tell the stories of our time there.  I know that this is my desire. So after a time of exploring various other creative directions, I find myself excited to be returning to this passion. I knew in my bones that there were more Africa-inspired quilts to be made, and am looking forward to sharing them with you on this blog in the weeks to come.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Words and Fabric

I love words almost as much as I love fabric. I enjoy writing and reading, and have collected quotations that inspire me or interest me for longer than I've been stitching. In fact my first collection (which I still have in my possession) was made when I was fourteen years old. So putting words together with fabric is a natural pairing for me. When our small Fibre Art Voices group came up with the theme of "Words" for a future exhibit, I decided that it was time to make some small fabric pieces that featured some of these quotations. Several years ago I made a large piece which contained some of the African proverbs I've collected over the years, so it seemed quite right and natural to return to these pithy sayings. for this project.

I have had a wonderful time retrieving scraps from my basket to make up the backgrounds for the proverbs. Pieced from leftover bits and bobs, each one is different. They're pretty small - about 4" x 6"- but once mounted on a small painted canvas and displayed on a wooden stand, they're quite lovely, I think.  All are being made in readiness for the Mid-Island Studio Tour our group will be part of at the end of this month. And yes, they'll be for sale. If you're anywhere near Deep Bay on Vancouver Island when the tour takes place, please drop by and see us. There are 9 fibre artists in our group, so there'll be lots and lots of variety in what you'll see on display.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Little of This, A Little of That

April has been a month of endings and beginnings. Most notably, an end to the colder, darker days and the arrival of spring. It's been a month of blossoms in our neck of the woods - beginning with forsythia and apple blossoms, then cherry and magnolias, followed by dogwood and rhododendrons. And the greens of spring everywhere never fail to delight me. The trumpeter swans that winter in the Comox Valley have now departed for their nesting grounds in Siberia, while songbirds in abundance can be heard in the trees in our yard. And my stitching has seen an end to one thing and a beginning to another too. My Indigo and Bluebirds quilt went off to its new home in Nelson, my Traveller's Blanket is just waiting for its binding, and a series of small African Proverbs pieces was started.
I have spent good chunks of time over at our cabin on Hornby Island, and made new blocks for my "Turning 65" quilt using the scraps I store there in an old pine trunk from Quebec. My friend Joan was able to accompany me on one of these occasions, and began work on a Jacqueline de Jonge quilt she's been wanting to make for some time, while I stitched away at my improvisational blocks.
And in a total departure from my usual colour palette and ways of working, I made a block for the Hornby Island Community Quilt. This year's theme was community radio, and the block harks back to the years when I was quite small, before there was TV, and I used to listen to stories about Wiggly Worm on a BBC radio show called Listen with Mother. The story always began with the words "Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin." Fabrics were provided for the block, with each of us adding our own to the mix. 
I've also done a little experimenting with cyanotype this month, with mixed results, but will share those another time. Now back to work on my African Proverbs . . . and perhaps a few other things besides. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Where Has the Time Gone???

I am finding it very hard to believe that it's the end of March already - a full month since I last blogged about my creative pursuits and thoughts about them. It seems I have only been able to keep my resolution to blog every week for the first two months of this year, but I am resolved that I will pick myself up by my bootstraps (whatever those are!) and get back on track. Writing about my work helps me keep track of what I've done and where I'm going. So does the notebook I keep - as is seen in photo above. Every month I make a list of my goals for that month, and then as I complete them, I cross them off with a red pen and write "completed". Some months I'm only able to cross off two or three of the items, but this was a pretty good month, with only one item that will be carried forward into April. I also make an annual list of "Quilts under construction" and "Quilts I'd like to make". And another list for my creative goals for the year. I've been doing this for six years now, and I find it really helps me stay on track and less likely to fly off "madly in all directions".

You may remember that at the beginning of the year I made another resolution - to make a small "luggage tag" creation every week, limiting myself to using only the scraps that accumulate in my rubbish bin that week. The tags are another means of giving me a sense of where I've been and what I've been doing.  One thing is abundantly clear to me at this point - that my love affair with bright saturated colours shows absolutely no signs of abating! I have bought a couple of marvellous books lately on natural dyeing and slow stitching using more earthy-coloured fabrics (Eco Colour by India Flint and Natural Processes in Textile Art by Alice Fox), but my own work seems to reside at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Also at the beginning of the year, I began making small improvisational tiny works, and I now have 24 of these. Recently I added grey print borders to the sides of each, and I like the way this sets them apart from each other. I think of this as my "Turning 65 Quilt", and plan to make a total of 65 blocks in total, before layering it and quilting it.  So while I haven't been writing about it, I have certainly been happily stitching. I must say that I'm very glad to be back in my own home and getting into my own routines again after a fall and winter spent mostly away from home. Thanks for dropping by, and especially to those of you who take the time to add your comments. Happy quilting everyone!