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Archive for February, 2010

Feb. 15 -Landscape Quilts

   At the beginning of January I took the first part of a quilting workshop called “Landscape Studio”.  From the advertising it looked like something that contained techniques I could apply to my felt work, especially the threadpainting.

   Turns out I was right.  And to top it off the teacher, who is a superb teacher as well as phenomenal quilter, was just fine with my disinterest in quilting.  She immediately understood how I wanted to adapt her techniques to my felt work.  Pam Druhen works with very realistic images.   She knows I tend towards abstractions.  So we made a deal, deciding that her job was to push me to stretch. So every time I started getting too abstract she insisted that my piece have at least some traits of a realistic landscape.

   During the first half of the workshop we made “maps” from photographs we took.  

Here’s my photo:

 

   Making a map entails enlarging the photo and then tracing the main, non-negotiable lines.  Think “quilt pieces”. So the lines need to be such that they can be transposed into pieces of a quilt.  Not too much curve because they need to be sewn together.  Not needing to sew my pieces together gave me more freedom. But, of course I transposed my pieces into rather basic geometric shapes.  As always.

    Here’s part of my “map”. It’s a little difficult to see, but I think you can get the idea.

                                                          

    Very carefully I started to cut out each of the shapes shown above (on my map) in different silks: chiffon, paj, etc.  It was a pain, and nothing came out properly.  So I decided to change my course and do as my friend Dianne does.  No pattern, just snip, snip, snip. Pam, the instructor, did keep insisting I try and make the picture look somewhat like a realistic landscape.  I bowed to her wishes.  After all, I had asked her to make me stretch.

   I went home and over the course of the last month I laid out my landscape.  I started with a white prefelt the size of the full piece.  Over that I laid a beautiful piece of a very fine weight silk chiffon that I’d dyed a blue-green.  Then I lightly applied wisps of merino, shapes cut out of all kinds of silk (chiffon, paj, devore), synthetic tulle, and even some hand-dyed cotton cheesecloth. 

Here’s what it looked like at that stage:

   To that I added yarns.  I wet it out and massaged it some.  Today I finished massaging it, rolling it and fulling it.  The first half is completed!

Here it is:

   Are you surprised?  I was.  It turned out so much more colorful than I thought it might.  Too colorful for a winter scene? Perhaps for some realists, but not for me.  I was fearful it was going to be too drab and boring.  I’m quite pleased with the soft colors.

Here’s another shot of it with the photo above for comparison:

   Next step will be to add surface design in the form of thread painting.  Thread painting is a kind of free-hand machine embroidery.  It can add texture, color, light, shadow and all sorts of other interesting details.

To be continued…….

 

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   The other day I told a friend that the tapestries are teaching me altogether different skills.  How to see differently.  How to distill what I see so I can communicate it.

   After I wrote this I started pondering the “seeing” of art.  What do I see?  How do I see?  Why do I want (or need?) to communicate my seeing? 

   Apparently just making art — the irresistable urge — the hours of pleasure — the challenges encountered — isn’t enough.  I also want others to see and share it with me.

   At least this partially explains why I spent much of this past week working on framing.  A tried and true mounting system suddenly failed. Luckily a friend who is a skilled woodworker saved the day.  In the process he taught me a new and easier way to make this particular mount. Ahh…friends are so important.

    The detail of what I see around me is quite overwhelming.  I find myself simplifying it into basic geometric shapes.  And then adding color and texture.  Does the result communicate to others?  If so, I wonder what?

   Take this piece, “Ashland Street” for example:

 

   What do you see when you look at it?  Or rather do you feel something?  Do you have a reaction to it?  Does it speak to you?  What does it say?

   The idea for the piece came to me one day as I was driving down a local street.  The sun was shining, slanting between two towering buildings.  The lighting was unusual and quite magnificent. Though I happen to like “Ashland Street” as a piece, I wonder does it communicate anything about the sun, or light, or anything else for that matter?

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