Sunday, May 31, 2015

Parksville Quilt Show

Going to a quilt show is a wonderful thing. I am just excited to do so these days as I was when I attended my first quilt show, quite by accident, in rural Ontario sometime in the 60's. And the Parksville Quilt Show was such a feast of colour and design and expertise. Such variety. Going to a quilt show is always an educational thing too, and I was surprised that it was the traditional appliqué quilts that I admired the most. This first one - Baltimore Voyage made by Paulette Cornish - was my favourite. Each block is so perfectly made, and the hand quilting showed it off in a way that machine quilting can never aspire to. The second appliqué quilt is Buds and Berries, made by Charlotte Hitchin. The stipple quilting around the nine motifs in the centre block is exquisite. 

It probably comes as no surprise that Village Life won a special place in my books. I love the layout, and all the activities going on in the centre of the huts. The fabric scraps are familiar to me - in fact come from a scrap bag of African prints I sold through Kitambaa - but the arrangement is Pat Louie's original design. Beautiful! And below that is Fireworks over Vancouver, made by Brenda Wilson. The threads she's used capture the fireworks perfectly. Such skilled machine quilting.

This tumbling blocks pattern, with an added vine border, is called Dragons - Bikes - Now Vines, and was made by Giselle Brewster for her son. It took a few years to bring to fruition, hence the title, indicating how her son's interests changed, as did the border treatment, as her son grew up. I love the way the blocks tumble onto the border, and are incorporated into the flowers. And there's always something quite special about a quilt made lovingly and over time for a family member. Last but not least, is Late Winter Sunset, made by Florence Labreque. I love, love, love this piece - surely my favourite art quilt of the show.

I think it's amazing that these works of art can be displayed like this, for all of us to enjoy. I wish I'd had the opportunity to go back a second and third time, as I'm sure I missed things. But what a joy to spend a day surrounded by the fruits of such creativity. Thank you, thank you to everyone who took part in the show. I so enjoyed it, and feel enormously proud to be part of such a community.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Seeds of an Idea for an Indigo Quilt

Last summer I took my first steps into the world of dyeing with indigo. There's something timeless and so appealing about this colour. Ever since I've been wanting to find a way to incorporate these fabrics into my work, and the opportunity came this spring with an idea of a piece I wanted to try to make. To begin, I selected three of the hand-dyed fabrics and then chose about 10 different batiks and prints of blue in different values to add to those. Some of these I combined into strip units, as seen below - just sewing them together randomly in varying widths was my first step.

Then I pulled out these delicious perle cottons from Colour Complements (find them on Etsy). Lorraine lives on the Sunshine Coast and her work, especially the variegated cottons, are marvellous. They look so striking with the blues, don't you think? Then I added in a piece of hand-dyed cotton I'd purchased from Ricky Tims eons ago, and started making some tall skinny units, and some "blossom" units.

All the while, I was thinking about the joy of winter gardens. I'm not much of a gardener myself, but I am most appreciative of flowers grown by others. And at no time is this more true than in the depths of winter, when it seems as though it's been raining non-stop for 700 days or so. Then by some miracle, right about late January or early February, when I'm beginning to wonder if spring will ever come again, these riotous bouquets of tulips appear in the grocery store. And I for one, never even try to resist the urge to buy these living, glowing, harbingers of spring. And that's what this quilt is about.

 The fun part comes when you try to put all the units together into a harmonious whole, and that's what I'm doing right now. It's a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle. I will have to wait until sometime in the summer to show you the completed piece, as I hope to enter it in a juried show, and can't reveal it until after that's happened. I thought you might enjoy learning about the process I use, for those who are not so familiar with improvisational piecing. And for those that are, I hope you enjoyed reading about how one quilt began, all the same.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Murder of Crows

A Tribute to Ana Miriam
How delightful it was to stumble upon these crow quilts when I dropped into a small bakery on Cliffe Avenue yesterday. All made by friend Jessie Schut, they are made with a gentle blend of seriousness and humour. Each one celebrates a different aspect of life, or a person, or a time. Jessie has been writing her blog - Crow Day One - for almost two years now. In it she continues to tell her stories and to reflect on life with the same wisdom glimpsed in these small works. I had seen photos of the crows on the website, but not in person until yesterday, and I was charmed. Jessie also enjoys playing with unusual fabrics, often with bits of bling, and is unafraid of using all sorts of embellishments. If you live anywhere near the Comox Valley, I would encourage you to drop into "Sweet Surprise" to see them for yourself. And if not, I hope you enjoy them vicariously via this blog.

Easter Morning Alleluia

Self Portrait at 65

Love Birds
Coming home after seeing Jessie's Crows, I was thinking about how important it is for those of us who work in fibre to get our finished pieces out there for the public to enjoy. How great that shops like Sweet Surprise are willing to act as a gallery for us. And how wonderful that Jessie was ready to share her creations. Thanks to you both.

Aesop's Crow

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Blue Birds and Indigo

Over the years I have collected all sorts of indigo prints. Some of these are African, some Japanese, some batiks, and there are even a few North American prints in there. From time to time I've sewn these together into blocks, using improvisational piecing. The centre blocks are all African indigo prints, most of them birds, I cut these into different sizes, and then surround them in strips of different widths, always ending up with a 12 1/2" square. The time finally came this month to put them all together into one quilt - a queen-sized quilt for my sister Sara - and to do it, I used that most traditional of settings - sashing with tiny squares. Making it has made me realize that improvisational piecing or improvisational quilting really is something that's on a continuum. This quilt is closer to a traditional quilt, with only a few characteristics moving it towards improvisation. Other pieces I've made have strips that are different widths along the length of them, or are cut out with scissors, and end up in blocks that are "wonky". But sometimes a more formal arrangement seems appropriate, as happened here. However one describes the process, it still had lots of variation to keep my interest going (I seem to get bored by making the same quilt block over and over again), and gave me great pleasure to make. Now on to something just a little more daring . . .

Sunday, May 3, 2015

"Mended" - An Exhibit of the Surface Design Association

I was very fortunate, this last week, to be able to see "Mended", at the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver, where it is showing until May 15th. This is a travelling exhibit by members of the BC and Yukon Surface Design Association, and includes work by 25 textile artists, who share their stories inspired by their understanding of mending. I had seen a few photos of the pieces online, but nothing compares to being there in person, to standing before a specific work and allowing oneself to respond to what one sees. So moving to see the many different interpretations, and the high calibre of work of the artists. I've included photos of a few of my favorites.
Michelle Sirois-Silver - Extractions Series

Catherine Nicholls - Mend Your Ways

Susan Purney-Mark - Beg or Boro

Judy Alexander - Grandma's Magical Stories

Patt Wilson - Rehabilitating, Detail
I went away thinking about how important it is for people choosing to do their one creative work, to expose themselves to as many different artists as possible - work in all mediums. It enriches one's understanding and encourages me, at least, to keep trying - to pursue the myriad of ideas dancing around in my head - to push my own work in new directions and see where it takes me. It's one of the wise pieces of advice offered by Julia Cameron in her book - The Artist's Way - to visit art galleries and exhibits as often as one has the opportunity. She calls it "filling the well". As for me, I came away from it with my inner self whispering a soft "yes". Yes, this is what I want to do, more than anything else. Wonderful!