Thursday, March 29, 2012

Landscapes with Sue Benner

What a great week this has been. It felt like a week at art school, as Sue packed our classes full of information both within the scope of our landscape class, and beyond it. Not only did we discuss the elements of good composition, the importance of value and colour, the techniques possible for abstracting a landscape, and much more. We also were introduced to numbers of other artists - some familiar and some new to us - working as painters and/or as textile artists representing landscapes. We visited work that was more realistic and other work that was more abstract. I could go on, but will leave it there, and would highly recommend her class to anyone wanting to create landscapes in fabrics. Our own work started with making three small studies from the photographs we'd brought with us, working in our own area of interest. I brought photos from our days in Lesotho, and made one small study with basic shapes, one with more curvilinear lines to it, and a third was a detail study. Then we began to work on a larger piece, based on one of our studies. I chose to make a bigger piece that was a combination of a couple of my smaller studies, and you can see it underway here, alongside the photo on which it was primarily based. I've also posted a couple of finished pieces (without the quilting), the first by Edie and the second by Leslie. The work going on around the room was most impressive, and I will post more photos in a few days. Lastly there is a photo
of Sue, discussing the finer points of quilting ourpieces with us. I only hope I can remember half of what I've learned from her.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Asilomar 2012

On the Monterey Peninsula, south of San Francisco, is a gem of a place, called Asilomar. It started its life as a YWCA Camp in the early 1900's, but now is a 107 acre Conference Centre, dotted with Arts and Crafts style buildings, behind the sand dunes and withing earshot of the California surf. For more than 20 years, quilters have been coming here to have workshops with some of the best. And this year, for the first time, I was able to come too, along with my friend Joan, and Karrie and Gladys, also from the Comox Valley. This week I'm in a class with Sue Benner, and later in the week, I'll post some photos of some
of the work I'm doing, but for now I just wanted to give you a brief introduction to this place. I am feeling quite overwhelmed with the calibre of teachers here - for example, I just came back to our room in the "Lodge", after hearing talks given by Esterita Austin, Hollis Chatelain and Ursula Kern (from Switzerland). Last night a presentation was made made Lura Schwartz Smith, and in the nights to come there will be even more people, who until now, were just names to me. It's all very, very humbling. But also very, very wonderful. And I'm exceedingly thankful to have this opportunity to spend two weeks here, studying with some of the best quilters in the world.

Friday, March 23, 2012

It Takes a Village - in Chilliwack

I spent a terrific week in Chilliwack last week, where quilters from both their Guilds - yes they have two Guilds - The Chilliwack Quilters Guild and the Piecemakers Guild - built all sorts of villages in the workshop I taught, as well as being a terrific audience to two Trunk Shows - the first about my work with the Bitengye Designers in Uganda, and the second about working with African fabrics. I can hardly wait to see the finished wall-hangings, as well as how they use the African fabric that was purchased in upcoming work. I was shown incredible hospitality, and while I had to come home to pack to go to Asilomar (Yikes! That's tomorrow!), I would gladly have stayed longer with this creative and enjoyable group. They look pretty hard at work, even serious, in some of these photos. But let me tell you that they were loads of fun, and that there was much laughter as well as significant stitching done. Thank you everyone for making me feel so at home!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Emma and Adele

This week, I followed up on a very interesting parcel that arrived, quite unexpectedly, in the mail. It contained three gorgeous fat quarters of hand-printed Ghanian batiks, and the pattern for a table runner which used them along with plain black fabric. The package came from Adele, from Grande Prairie - someone I'd never met before. She had lived in Ghana for some months a couple of years ago, and spent a good bit of time working with Emma (pictured in the top photo), a young Ghanaian woman who makes batik fabrics. She brought some of the fabrics back to Canada with her, and has had some success in

selling them locally. She was writing to me to ask if I might be interested in selling her fabrics through my business. The fabrics themselves are of superior quality - with a lovely "hand" to them, and with the wax well removed (not an easy job). Adele and I talked this weekend, and to make a long story short, I am going to start carrying kits which include her fabrics right away - I'll have them in time for Quilt Canada - and have also ordered samples from which to order more fabric. I'm thrilled that this connection has come about - all because Adele came across my website and realized that we shared the same interest in supporting African women in business. The curved table mat and the indigo and white bed quilt were both made by Adele, and are great examples of ways to use this beautiful fabric. The photos beneath the samples give you some idea how rich they are. One of the lovely things is that the motifs have been scaled down so that they're more appropriate for quilting. I hope that if you're in Halifax for Quilt Canada, that you'll stop by the Kitambaa booth to see these for yourself firsthand. There's nothing like smoothing your own hand over the cotton to get a sense of what it would feel like in a quilt!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Too Much Stimulation??? A Little Overwhelmed???

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. Or at the very least, whelmed. I came home from Hornby with great intentions of working on one or two things at a time, but by the end of today, I had the following projects covering my walls, my chair, my tables, and filling my mind to overflowing. There's a fabric combination I'm considering using to make a sample, to feature the marvellous Amafu fabric I import from South Africa. There's a scrap quilt with half-square triangles in the centre, and strips of black and white and African fabrics (the triangles are leftovers from my It Takes a Village and African Journey patterns) being designed. There's an under-
construction guinea fowl quilt, which will become a pattern and a kit in time for Quilt Canada. And there's a colourful quilt being made for someone special who has one of those very important birthdays coming up in April. Oh, yes, and there's the fabrics for me to make a block for the Hornby Island Community Quilt - the theme is water. And it's due on April 15th. I know, I know. I should finish one thing and then move onto the next. But I'm back in my familiar milieu, and the ideas outpace my ability to do them something awful. I've taken to writing down other possibilities on little stickies and putting them up on the wall. Those are things I haven't even begun to do. And I have a sketchbook nearby in which to draw other quilt ideas that leap across my mind as I'm working. Does anybody else feel like this at times? And what do you do about it? Sometimes I just climb into bed for a nap! Or snuggle up with a good book or a Sudoku. I know there must be some tried and true methods of coping out there. Any thoughts you'd care to share would be most welcome!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Twelve X Twelve Quilts

I am fortunate enough to have a group of friends - fellow quilters - with whom I have been going on retreat twice a year for many, many years. We've changed locations for our retreats, and have gone from making our own meals and sleeping in dorm-type beds to having catered meals and extremely comfy beds, but other than that, the format is more or less the same each time we meet. One of the things we do is have a challenge, taking turns to choose the topic. For the last couple of years I have been making my challenge piece as a 12" X 12", inspired by the Twelve by Twelve Challenge Group. It's not a size I would normally choose, but that in itself is a challenge. I try to work quickly and not to overthink the possibilities on these pieces, with the result that some are more successful than others. The first is "The Taste of
Chocolate". The second is "Under the Sea". The third is "Cityscape", and the fourth is "The Old Apple Tree". I've never won one of these challenges, but am always interested in how people choose to interpret the theme, and all the different techniques they employ in making their pieces. Cityscape was our most recent challenge, and now we are all putting on our thinking caps to see how to interpret the challenge for next fall - "Hands". I'll be sure to show you the results of that one. Meanwhile I've just joined an online Twelve X Twelve Challenge group. It's so early, that we don't even have the first challenge topic yet. But the idea is that we'll complete a 12 X 12 every three months, with an online reveal of the results. Once it's up and running, I'll be sure to include that website address so that you can follow along too, if you'd like to. It's amazing how
many off-shoots there are now of the original 12 X 12 group - a way to stretch ones wings without spending too much time on something that may or may not work. A close cousin to Journal Quilting, really. With all the same advantages.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Home from Hornby

Well, here I am, back home from my "artist's retreat" on Hornby Island. It was terrific - taking time apart from the busy-ness of life to be creative, to focus on my work, to think about what direction I want to go in. I would highly recommend it to anyone. Without the usual distractions of life, I have better been able to narrow down what kind of work I want to do, and confirmed in myself a new, and somewhat unexpected direction. In addition to quilting, I did a lot of journalling (this is a decades-old practice that I find very helpful in sorting out my thoughts, as well as for unloading concerns and cares that have the potential to divert me from what I really want to do), and collecting of images that inspire me and sorting through those. I was able to concentrate on eating a healthier diet, and getting outside for daily exercise - all those good things that are part of a more balanced life. It was good, very good. So . . . . I thought I'd show you just a couple of the pieces I worked on, besides
the Hornby Quilters journal pieces. "To Market, To Market" is the first in a series of improvisational studies I am embarked on making. I used a painted barkcloth image as the focal point, and built around it, with strip units that were cut in different widths, some of them wedge-shaped and some not, and sliced apart to make a border for the focal point. In the second study - So Many Zebras", I began by making curved strip-units, and then cutthem apart and put them back together again. I will show you others in this series as they evolve. Next is a piece called "Windows on Africa". I made a grid by couching very thin strips of African fabrics,
then filled in the squares with scraps of some of the many African wax fabrics that I have used in the past. It's a playful "What If?" piece, and measures 16" X 36". "Knight" is the last piece I worked on, and it still needs quilting. I used Ruth McDowell's method to break down a photo of Knight, one of the Bitengye Designers, as she was ironing on a table underneath the trees. It will be the first in a series of quilts featuring African women. As you've probably gathered, I am focussing on African-inspired work at the moment. I am using African fabrics, and other fabrics that work well with these, as well as African artwork, and have tucked most everything else away for now. And this is what I plan to continue working with in the coming weeks and months. Thanks for letting me share this with you.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Quilts in the Co-op

On Hornby Island, the Co-op is the hub of the community. It's a wonderful place, where you can find everything from long underwear to specialty dips. And every February they decorate it with quilts from the Hornby Quilters. They're hung from the beams and along the walls, and brighten the whole place admirably - something that's especially appreciated at that time of the year. I can only show you a few of them here, and my photos don't really do them justice, but you'll be able to get the feel of the place, I think. There were quilts hanging made by most of the members of the Hornby Quilters, and a couple of group quilts as well. And amidst it all, Juanita is
carrying on business as usual. This is just a taste of what's to come, as the August outdoor quilt show is the big event. If you happen to be on Hornby the first Sunday in August, do drop by. Eleanora Laffin's home is hung with lines in the orchard, near flower gardens, on the washing line, on the outhouse, and on every other available space. There are even goodies and teas served in the dappled light under the trees. It's an event not to be missed. (The quilts for which there is a close-up, were made by Eleanora Laffin, Marg Bennett, and ????? Help!!! Why can't I remember to write these things down when I take the pics? I never seem to be able to keep the information in my head these days. Is it just me?)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Some of my Hornby Journal Quilts

I have been a proponent of working small ever since I saw the quilts from the Journal Project hanging in Houston. The idea (for those of you who haven't explored this possibility previously) is working in an agreed-upon size (8 1/2" X 11", in this case), and working quickly. It's a great place to try out new techniques, and far less intimidating than beginning a larger piece. It takes less time and it takes less fabric. Sometimes the results are pleasing and sometimes they're just lessons learned. The best of them can become fodder for a larger piece at a later time. Sometimes groups agree on a theme ahead of time. Sometimes an individual will decide on her/his own theme. For these journal quilts (I showed a few made by others on my previous post), the theme, or the guidelines, change each month. The first one was made from samples of upholstery remnants given to the Hornby Quilters. I chose to treat them with fusible web, and then to build a scene of houses and a washing line. The theme for the second one was Valentine's, hence the two little birds in their nest. The theme for the last one was Portals, and
these little African huts I had made some days before for another piece (they didn't look right where I had intended them to go) fit perfectly into this format. The theme for March is Water, and for April, we are to make any small piece in which the shape of the quilt describes what the theme is (any theme we want). That should keep me busy for a little while! One of the interesting things I've discovered in making these over the last year, is that the more I make, the easier it becomes. One of my early ones was a real dud, but I ate "humble pie" and took it as my offering anyway. After all, I had encouraged everyone else to "just do it", and not worry about the results. I could hardly turn around and hide my own pitiful piece.