Friday, January 25, 2013

My First Ever Article in Quilting Arts Magazine!

I wrote an article, and it's been published in Quilting Arts Magazine!

My article explains how to use a woodburning tool to cut synthetic fabric in order to make clean, non-fraying fusible appliques.  It's a fun, easy beginner level technique requiring only one piece of unusual equipment.  

Quilting Arts Magazine, February-March 2013
Cover of Quilting Arts Issue #61

The magazine should be on shelves now, or any day now, OR you can purchase a copy online here!

QA Article 1
My article, looking all fancy and professional, along with one of the quilts illustrating the featured technique

I'm proud of this article, but I also learned a lot while writing it - I have zillions of idea for future how-to articles, and I hope the writing and the process photos will just keep on getting better!

I would LOVE it if those of you who subscribe to Quilting Arts could give my article a read and post a comment here letting me know what you think of it! 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Art Show: "Painting on Fabric," by Peggy Brown at The Art Quilt Gallery

Once again there is a new show at my favorite New York art venue, The Art Quilt Gallery!

The current show, "Painting on Fabric," features quilted pieces by Peggy Brown.  Because Ms. Brown has come to quilting from a career as a watercolorist and mixed-media painter, she brings an unusual approach and set of skills into her art quilts. As soon as I visited Peggy Brown's website prior to stopping by the gallery, I knew that this show would not be quite like any I have seen so far at The Art Quilt Gallery, and that I would love her work! 

As always, forgive the less-than-perfect photography...

Peggy Brown -Another Form II
"Another Form II" by Peggy Brown

 One reason these quilts feel so substantially different from others I have seen at The Art Quilt Gallery is that Peggy Brown, in many of her pieces, incorporates quantities of beautifully worn and wrinkled watercolor paper, creating a very leathery book-like surface.  The quilts that feature areas of painted paper have a substantial quality, and they feel almost like ancient and accidental artifacts.

Peggy Brown -Winter Water
"Winter Water" by Peggy Brown

 My sense that something magical and accidental must be transpiring is apparently not too crazy, as Brown describes her painting and quilting processes this way:
"My studio time is divided between “paintings on paper” and my newer obsession,”paintings on fabric.”  I approach both from the viewpoint of a watercolor artist using the same media and methods I have used for years. To begin, I wet the substrate, either paper or fabric, then freely brush on paint letting the pigments mingle and follow their personal paths as they dry.  This process may be repeated several times for more depth and richness.  After drying the marks on the paper or fabric inspire and help me choose a way to continue and complete the image. My goal is to take a free-flowing start, and using collage, overlays of more pigment and drawing, compose a well-designed finish."

Peggy Brown -In Motion
"In Motion" by Peggy Brown

 Some of the quilts also incorporate digital imagery, and Brown has successfully tackled one of the major challenges faced by quilt artists who use digital processes in our work: her pieces have none of that aggravating telltale quality that makes a quilt seem to scream, "Parts of me were printed out from a computer, isn't it distracting!" The elements of her work described as "digital transfers to silk" have a fabulous deep, jewel-like quality that definitely drew me in. 

Peggy Brown -New Directions
"New Directions" by Peggy Brown

 Brown had this to say about what she hopes her work will communicate:
"I try to express images that are on, above and below the surface. By keeping each painted layer transparent, I invite the viewer to follow as I work and perceive the process from tentative beginnings to the final touch.  Some of my beginnings become non-objective abstracts.  Some become landscapes or still life. The entire process is collaboration between watercolor - the medium; and myself - the artist. I think we both enjoy ourselves."

Peggy Brown -When September Ends
"When September Ends" by Peggy Brown
Peggy Brown's work absolutely reinforces my belief that, to bring in a quote from my own artist statement, "quilting is the most exciting medium a person could choose because an artist can, quite literally, incorporate elements from any other medium into an art quilt. There are very few techniques [one cannot] bring to an art quilt, and I enjoy the challenge of translating between the qualities that define a quilt and the qualities inherent in other media - they often can seem completely contradictory," but in reality are wonderfully symbiotic.

As I always say, if you're able you should absolutely go forth and check out the gorgeous pieces in Peggy Brown's show! It will make your day and make you want to mix a few different media together in your own studio when you get home.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Signatures for 2013

In 2012, I came up with a fantastic way of signing my quilts, a method that I am sure anyone who knows me would describe as "just so Stella."  As 2013 was starting, I realized I would have to create a whole new batch of signatures for all the upcoming artwork, and so I sat down last week and made forty five shiny new labels that are now ready to go! 

Signatures ready to use in 2013

According to my excellent new database of artwork, I created thirty seven quilts in 2012. Not too shabby! I did end up with fifteen leftover signatures, and I plan to hold onto these for a little while, just until I can make sure I've actually signed every quilt (I already located one that somehow got away). 

Leftovers from last year.

I just completed and signed my first quilt of 2013, and I thought I would tease you all with a view of the back... What could this quilt look like?  I'll post a picture as soon as I have good enough light to get a quality image of it!

The first quilt to be signed this year!

I wish you all the best in art and in life for 2013 - if anyone has special goals they've set for the year, post them in the comments!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Artist Interview with Martha Ressler

Martha Ressler is an artist I have known for several years, and I am a fan of her gorgeous quilts, paintings and fabric collages, as well as of her inspiring approach to her own artistic career.  So I definitely knew as soon as I began my "Artist Interviews" series, she would have to be included!

Martha's work can be seen on her website, and you can also follow her various doings over on her blog

Now, on to the interview!

"Crossing the Tracks" by Martha Ressler

Describe Your Workspace - is it in your living space or separate? Do you have a preference one way or the other? Is there anything your setup doesn't allow?
My Studio is outside my home, on the third floor of a commercial building on the main street in Lawrenceville, an old but “becoming trendy” section of Pittsburgh. It is spacious at about 500 square feet. When I go there I can focus on making art without the distractions of home: cooking, laundry, the computer, TV, etc. The drawback is the expense. Even at the reasonable price of just over $400 a month, having a studio necessitates earning at least that much in sales every month. Which doesn’t even count materials costs, and definitely doesn’t include living expenses! (I work full time and that plus art sales more or less works out OK.)

The thing my set-up doesn’t allow is fabric dyeing. I am not greatly attracted to dyeing, but if I were, I would have a hard time, as water access is one floor down via a kitchen sink and small bathroom sink. I promised the landlord I wouldn’t do messy dyeing there!

Do you incorporate any materials or techniques into your art that are not normally thought of as art supplies? What about these items makes them appeal to you personally?  How do you use them, and how did you discover this unexpected artistic use? 
These would be my found objects. I backed into using them.  First I incorporated various buttons and bits of jewelry that I’d collected. Then when I wanted a rougher look, I began using bits of rusty metal that I found in the neighborhood. I began expanding the found objects to include bits of paper, like discarded lottery cards, plastics, Dorito bags and candy wrappers. These are things that actual people have used, touched and discarded. I like the idea of including them in my art in unexpected ways. I feel like I’m weaving together the past, present and future.

"Walkabout" by Martha Ressler

Have you ever decided your work needed to change in a way that involved having to re-think the way you "always do" some aspect of your process? 
The change from oil painting to fabric collage was a wrenching one. At first I didn’t realize the implications of taking up a new medium. In order to display a consistent body of work in shows and galleries, I had to choose one or the other. I had not proceeded with painting far enough to be really confident and good at it, yet before I had a chance to do that, fabric called to me. I heeded the call. I think it is possible that I may return to painting in the future.

"Forging Wheels" (fabric) by Martha Ressler

"Forging Wheels" (oil on panel) by Martha Ressler

Do you have any concrete advice about how to do away with artist's block?
I usually know what I want to accomplish when I enter my studio, but occasionally I have no idea. In that case I start sorting my stash and cleaning up and looking through pieces I have put aside. Before long I have an idea. My advice is to always go to the studio (every day). Do not wait for inspiration to strike, but show up for work anyway. I also find inspiration when I walk. I walk 10,000 steps a day, and often the solution to some problem will come to me as I move, breath, and look around.

"A Glance at the Past" by Martha Ressler

Is there a piece you'll (probably) never sell? What is it, and why is it going to be staying with you?
There is one that is very dear to me that I know I will never sell because it is NFS. After my mother died, I was left with a box of old photos, mostly black and whites from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. These were “rejects” that hadn’t made it into her well-organized photo albums. I finally decided to cut them up in ½ inch squares and collage them into a portrait of her. The promising young woman dissolves into bits which equate to the reality of her life as an artist and mother.

"A Life Pixelated" by Martha Ressler

You live in Pittsburgh. What opportunities exist locally for fiber artists?  What about the character of your city do you find particularly inspirational? Are there any local organizations or groups you'd like to mention so they can get more exposure? 
Vital to the Pittsburgh fiber art scene is the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh. This is a wonderful group of artists who support each other in so many ways. I am also very involved with the Pittsburgh Society of Artists (I am finishing up my second term as president).    I get much inspiration by also being a member of a multi-media group. As far as the city of Pittsburgh goes, it is important to the way I work now.  The grittiness of it is my muse, as well as its rich history.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thoughtful Blog Post from Lisa Call

"Welcome Complexities #1" (detail)

Back in September I wrote a post on art quilter Lisa Call's gallery talk about her show at The ArtQuilt Gallery. Since then I have greatly enjoyed following her blog, in which she offers thoughtful insights about making beautiful work, pursuing an art career and living a fulfilled life.  A while ago she wrote a post entitled "How and Why I Grow and Share Wealth with Every Textile Painting I Sell," and I was struck by her thoughts on how an artist can bring positive changes to her own life and the larger world using the flow of wealth (whether it be great or tiny) from her artistic practice. 

Here is a small piece of the article explaining her concept: 
"Each month, I calculate my gross income from art sales for the month and then take 2 actions that I believe are 2 of the most important things I do each month for my art business: 
1) I transfer 10% of my gross art income into a savings account. When this account builds up to a reasonable sum, I transfer it to a brokerage account, where I then purchase individual company stock.
2) I select people, causes and institutions that have inspired me during the past month, and then give 10% of my gross art income to those selected. The giving I do each month is not always deductible, as this is not about taxes, it’s about recognizing the abundance in my life and sharing it with others.
Even if my art income for the month is only $30, I still donate $3. And I save $3. 
I consciously take these actions each month, recognizing that through my art, I am able to both share what I have and also build a future for myself."

The post also contains all kinds of other excellent insights, which you should go check out. 

I absolutely plan to adopt this practice, and I think that at this very early stage in my career I could also add a third category: setting aside an additional 10% of my gross income from each piece to be used for covering the expense of applying to future shows. This can be very costly, but it is a necessary part of building an art career. Contributing money during times of success can help to prevent this annoying ongoing expense from becoming a barrier to future growth. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Quilt - "Welcome Complexities #2"

Welcome Complexities #2
"Welcome Complexities #2"

Title: Welcome Complexities #2
Materials: muslin, commercial cottons & other fabrics, inkjet printed fabric, chalk pastel, fabric paint, beads, crayon, oil paint sticks, permanent marker, sequins, heat transfer foil, iron-on sequins
Dimensions: 18.75" by 13.25"

Click on details below to view larger versions on Flickr. 

This quilt is from mid-2012, and it's my first big experiment with using oil paint sticks by rubbing the tip directly on the fabric surface.  After this successful trial, I am in love with them, and the complexity they add to a quilt.  It's like once you bring paint sticks into the picture, your quilt automatically acquires a whole new layer of age and wisdom!