Monday, May 30, 2011

Silk-Screen Printing

Today Joan and I enjoyed a terrific "play day", even though it was a "work day". On the weekend, our friend Eileen Neill came up to Comox, and gave us some excellent instruction in silk screening. She'd made the screens from the drawings of African animals I had done, using a Thermofax machine. (The lino prints we used to be able to import from South Africa are no longer available to us, so we thought it was time we started to make our own.) Today we put her instruction into practice, and made somewhere between 80 and 90 prints.

The first thing you have to do, is to mix up the base with the pigment - in this case black. You position the fabric right side up on a slightly padded print surface, and then you spoon the black goop - it's consistency reminded me of honey - onto one end of the screen but inside the frame, using just enough to cover the screen area.

Then, using a bowl scraper or any other suitable spreader, you carefully pull the paint mixture across the screen at a bit of an angle. The trick is to exert equal pressure at all points on the screen so that the print comes out with even printing. (We got better at this bit as the day progressed.)

The screen is carefully lifted and then voila - the print is visible. After lying it flat and letting it dry, it is heat-set with an iron, and ready to trim and to use in any way your imagination suggests.

This shows you just a portion of the prints we made today, lying out on the cutting table to dry. The ironing and trimming will happen tomorrow. We were thrilled with how smoothly the printing went, and are already imagining ways that we can incorporate the prints into our work. At the end of this week some of them will be travelling with me to Czar, Alberta, where I'll be teaching my African Collage workshop. The weekend after that we'll be in Whistler for their quilt show, where Kitambaa will be a vendor, and have sets of all 7 animals for sale. Of course, they'll be available by mail too. Just send me an email if you'd like more information.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Africa-Inspired Quilts

One of the lovely things that frequently happens, as part of my life as a quilter and quilt teacher, is the arrival of photos of African-inspired (or Art Deco-inspired) quilts made by students and/or other quilters. Here are just a few recent pics. The first two are made by Margot Calvert from the Fraser Valley Quilt Guild in the Fraser Valley. Her rendition of African Sunshine is just terrific. Such a mixture of different and often unexpected fabrics. My eye travels around it, Surprising the viewer, using the unlikely, adds such richness to a quilt like this. I love the quilting lines too, how they give the whole piece such movement. Her second quilt is made from a Carol Piercy pattern. Again it's the choice of fabrics, and particularly the outer bordering fabric, that makes it so appealing. That may be one of the things that draws people to quiltering - that even if two quilts are made using the same pattern, each one is unique as each person chooses different fabrics to work with.

The next quilt is made by Joanne Colleaux from Kamloops. What's interesting in this African collage, besides the observation that many different elements can be successfully incorporated into one piece as long as there are unifying borders and fabrics in the rest of the work, is what a difference it made when Joanne added the outside border. She knew she wasn't finished with it yet, and wasn't truly happy until she added the piano key border around the entire outer edge. Ahhh! Perfect. Thanks to both of you for sharing.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Being Part of a Creative Community

I have been thinking back on the retreat I participated in, in early April, and find myself full of thankfulness that I am part of such a creative community. Some of us have known each other for fifteen or more years; others in the group are relative newcomers. But the thing we share, the thing that connects us, is our creativity. Some would call themselves artists, others would say they were quilters, but perhaps it's most true to say we're all ready to try just about anything that allows us to express ourselves in the work we do. There are informal teaching sessions that take place over the three days on which we meet, but another highlight of our time together is always "Show and Tell". I thought I'd share just a little from this spring with you. First is Dale MacEwan's collage of Market Square in Victoria. Constructed of her own photos, it captures the rich character of this part of town. Next is Hennie Aikman, with her bamboo piece. She tried out Anna Buzzalino's method of quilting fabric first (written up in a recent issue of Quilting Arts), then painting or silk-screening the surface.

Yvonne Turner's salmon is mounted on mosquito netting and a driftwood embellished wooden frame.
Carol Seeley spends a large part of each summer boating with her husband, and has become known for her hand appliqued landscape pieces. The last photo is of an African crazy quilt adaption that Trudy Thorne made for herself out of scraps left from her hours of cutting fabrics for Kitambaa Designs. This is just a small taste of the work being done by some of my creative friends in this part of the world. I am so admiring of each of them. You can see why I consider myself so fortunate. When we get together, the energy is almost palpable, the ideas flow, the possibilities are endless. I consider myself rich indeed to be part of such a community.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Glories of Spring

Spring seems to have arrived late everywhere in Canada this year, including the West Coast. As a result, the blossoms were even more welcome than usual when they opened. Of all the spring flowers, I think daffodils have to be my favourite. Such happy faces, so full of sunshine. The pictures I've included here were taken on Hornby Island just before I headed off to Yellowknife. What a contrast with my last post from NWT! And yet each place, each season, is spectacularly beautiful in its own way.

This spring has also seen me completing pieces for several shows. Pictured here is "Encounters with Kente", made for the Fibre Art Network's Pathways exhibit at Spencer Gallery in London, Ontario, being held concurrently with Quilt Ontario. I drew my inspiration from the Kente cloth I had seen being made and purchased while in Ghana, and from the paintings of Ablade Glover. I decided to include a piece of real Kente on the front, to honour it, and then made a companion piece to the Kente, hanging on the right of it. The shapes in the Kente have become body shapes in my piece. The background for the people is made from couched African strips of fabrics on yellow. The bottom of the piece is made of more African thin strips beaded with Ghanaian glass beads. I so enjoyed making this piece, and have plans for more work inspired by African textiles. A series, perhaps.