Monday, March 14, 2011

Jean Ray Laury

On March 1st, at the age of 82, Jean Ray Laury died. The world, and in particular the quilting world, is a richer place for her. Back in the 60's, when there were only 3 or 4 books on quilting in print, she published Quilts and Coverlets. My Mum had a copy of that book, and it was my first exposure to non-traditional quilts. But the book that caused me to add her to my personal list of mentors, was The Creative Woman's Getting-It-Together Handbook. I've read that book from cover to cover several times, and am struck by how many of the insights she offers in it are just are pertinent today as they were when the book was written. My personal favourite? Whatever you do (whatever you make),
do it with passion. Do it because you care about the person for whom you are making it, or because you're crazy about the colours, or because it's an issue you're passionate about. Don't waste your time on mediocrity, on the lukewarm. Life is too short for that. (This is quoted from memory, so not an exact quotation, but you can get the gist of it.) It's advice I've taken to heart ever since. Back in the mid 1980's, I was fortunate enough to take a class with Jean at Banff - Applique with Simple Shapes. Tom's quilt, pictured here, had huge appeal for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed being in her class, as much for who she was as for what I learned. Jean had a terrific sense of humour, as well as strong political statements to make, and often her quilts embodied both. The Listen to Your Mother quilt illustrates that. But my fondest memory of her is the story of Jack and the Beanstalk that she gave as the Guest Speaker at Banff. She talked about planting the seed you've been given - the bean being a metaphor for creativity. Because if you don't plant it, if you don't tend to it properly, it won't grow. At the end of the lecture, she gave every participant there a hand-painted bean, to remind each of us to plant, to use, to take care of, our
own creativity. My original bean was chewed up by a toddler who was resident in my home at that time (he shall remain nameless), but when I was going through my mother's belongings in preparation for a move to a facility some thirty years later, I found my mother's hand-painted bean, tucked away in a tiny wooden holder. I have kept it ever since. A great reminder of a great lady. You will be missed, Jean, but not forgotten.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ablade Glover and Ghana's No. 1 Taxi Driver

An artist who has been extremely influential in Ghana's art world is Ablade Glover. He had a special exhibit showing at the Artists' Alliance in Accra when we visited it, and the multitudinous splashes of bright colour are evocative of Ghanaian markets and crowds, so much so that you can almost feel the heat and the press of bodies going on around you when you look at the paintings. Or hear people calling out to one another, or small confrontations as negotiations on pricing take place. Everything is so fluid - always something new going on around you or coming towards you or up above you or down at pavement level. With simple lines and shapes and colours, the paintings achieve something that words alone can't convey. The two paintings shown here just give you a taste of his work. The man photographed below, however, is not Ablade Glover, but Harry Jo, Ghana's No. 1 taxi driver. He reliably took us everywhere we wanted to go during our week in Accra. His English was good and his sense of humour even better. So if you're ever going to
Ghana, give me a call, and I'll give you his phone number! (I promised him I would publish his photo and give you all this information!!!)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Victoria and Albert Textiles

In the textile area of the V & A, rows and rows of framed textiles, dating back to the 13th century and before, are housed in banks of shelves. They're made to take out and study, and desks run alongside the shelves, so that they can be removed and sketched. Here you can see Joan pulling out one of the samples. The remaining photos are some of the textiles I photographed, being careful to get the information as well as the inspiration, as seen on the last sample. I could have spent a week there. Sadly, we were told that on March 1st of this year, this department is being closed, and will be moved to another venue. It will be 2 to 3 years before it will be open to the public once more. So we count ourselves very fortunate indeed that we were able to spend time there again this year. You might just see a version of that tree of life in my own work before too long!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sketching the Masters - A Time-Honoured Tradition

On our way home from Ghana and Uganda, Joan and I stopped in London for a couple of nights. As on past journeys, we made a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum our first priority. This marvellous museum was the first of its kind in the world - built to showcase and for the study of design. Students of design, both formal and informal, go to the museum to sketch the masters, in fields as diverse as architecture, sculpture, ironwork and textiles, to name just a few. Most come equipped with their own sketchpads, but more are available in the gift shop if you come without one. Many come with collapsible stools on which to sit while they sketch. Then there is their book store, with books on everything from fashion design to furniture design. For those of you who have never had the opportunity to visit the V & A, this will give you some idea why we like to return there so often. Sometimes in these days of concern over copyright, particularly in quilting circles, it is forgotten that this method of studying the work of the masters is time-honoured and incredibly valuable, in honing one's own sense of design. So
much can be learned this way, about one's preferences for line and shape, texture and colour. The art in it comes from putting all that learning together with skill and practice and experience in learning a variety of techniques, to create one's own work.