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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Celtic Quilts ARGH!!!!!

Jessica pointed out in an email to me that I hadn't put in any of my quilts lately. There's a reason for that. have been soooo frustrated, I was getting ready to throw in the needle..... And the sewing machine....AND my stash (that's fabric for all you non-quilters out there).
These three are the latest ones...all finished from 3/13 to 3/15. I belong to an art quilt group down here (the Miami Valley Art Quilt Network), in addition to the local Troy Guild (Batty Binders) and the Miami Valley Quilt Guild (the larger group in Dayton). They range from about 27" square to about 38" , the Blue Herons being a little longer. All are machine quilted and appliqued, with the red one being needlefelted (aka embellished) using my special Bernina felting foot.
The group which has been the most active for me at the moment has been the Miami Valley Art Quilt Network (hereafter called MVAQN). I'm the exhibitions chairperson, and we have also been having a bi-monthly stitch-in at a local shop for a smaller group of us, just to work on stuff and get feedback from others in the group as well as to get to know each other better. I also meet with another group which doesn't really have a guild affiliation once a week for somewhat the same thing.

The MVAQN also has a class once a month which is following Elin Waterston and Jane D'Avila's Art Quilt Workbook. This requires us to do homework --exercises in composition and technique, in addition to reading and discussing the text. Getting the homework done, plus being a mom and a wife, and overseeing the exhibitions, and gardening...and and and....has been difficult.

It is a challenge to do the homework, and lately I have been really frustrated in my quilting. For instance, take this piece. It's called Celtic Seahorse and it is really maddening. I measured it, I squared it, I quilted it...and it hangs crooked. Not just slightly crooked, but massively crooked.
Often, this goof is because it isn't on grain. I cut the borders from a first quality Jinny Beyer Stripe and it is cut along the pattern. I though I had the background fabric cut on grain and square. It is pretty much evenly quilted, and still it hangs poorly. I've never had a piece quite this bad...In addition, I'm not happy with the contrast, I got the background and the green of the serpent too close in value.
There's some other problems which are less obvious and I won't point them out...but I'm embarrassed that it is hanging at present at an area library. Once I get it back, I'll take it apart (and yes, this means picking out all the quilting stitches) and re-assemble it, trying to get it t lay flat and fly right.
These three pieces were part of a challenge from the MVAQN. All the pieces are based on the Book of Kells, or inspired from Celtic art. A local library has a facsimile copy of the Book of Kells and we were doing this "challenge" to show next to the facsimile copy. The red piece at the top of this post is called "Circle of Ravens" and I did it with specialty knitting yarns which I needle felted onto 80/20 acrylic and wool blend felt.
The eyes are cup sequins with a black bead in the center. Once I saw it hanging, I realized that it needs some brighter glittery thing in the middle of the Trycele (the 2 armed thing in the middle) so once I get it home, I'll add a gold bead of some sort, and maybe some other pieces further out. This piece was my first attempt at felting, and I broke needles left and right as I learned how to handle this thing. Kind of a nuisance as the needles cost $3 each.
The piece at left is called "Blue Herons". It is machine appliqued and it DOES hang flat (as does the Circle of Ravens :) ). I like this one best of all, although I really had to think about what colors I was putting where. The interlaced leaf designs are painted on, and the bits in the corners of the corner blocks are Chinese coins with a green agate bead stitched over the top.
Blue Herons are common here and have become the source of a family joke....which I will tell you at a later date.
My frustration with quilting is that I always seem to have too much housework, or other responsibilities to really focus on it and get it done properly. In the case of the Seahorse, I swear I'm pulling first year quilter's mistakes, and I need to really focus on honing my quilting skills again.
Another source of frustration is that I'm supposed to be doing these exercises for the Art Workbook class which are sometimes not really interesting for me, or that I don't have any decent ideas for or whatever. I also realize that for most of the pieces they have us do, they are sort of collage quilts, which generally aren't the type of quilts I do, and the type of sketching they have us do isn't what I normally do. I feel like I'm undisciplined and out of kilter. It doesn't help that you feel like you are presenting the pieces before the Art Quilt Police....and they're even worse than the Quilt Police.
I think that my friend Fran, who is also in the MVAQN but dropped out of the Art Quilt Workbook class summed it up and made me understand what I was balking about. We do pieces to please us, not to fulfill some arbitrary workbook, and that in this case, our peers are sort of daunting.
So, I hope to get back to it...although the garden is awakening....and it needs to be cleaned and weeded. Ah....the never ending source of distractions...that is my life.


Michigoose said...

hmmm. In looking at this, I can see that I should have left more space at the top of the Herons as the lightness of the legs makes is seem like there's nothing there, but since I cropped the top the same as the bottom...oooops!

Sunita said...

Lisa, no matter what you say, no matter how many flaws you point out, I'm still very much in awe of your creations. I have no idea how you get strips of cloth to blend and merge into a work of art.
And art it is... if Dali could get generations to ohh and aah over his distorted timepieces, then you're entitled to some distortions too, huh? ;D
I really wish you would start a side-posting on tutorials for beginners like me who would need to be told what is 'cutting on the grain', etc.
Did I tell you how much I love your quilted creatures? Even the ravens... and I dont particularly care for the live ones !

Roberta Ranney said...

Hi Lisa - I found your blog after you kindly left a comment on mine. It is a pleasure seeing all the work you've been doing. I do have a suggestion on the Celtic Seahorse blending into the background. It is a trick I learned from Ellen Anne Eddy - outline the seahorse in black thread with a narrow satin stitch. It will help pop it into the foreground.

One other thought - I absolutely refuse to hang out with the quilt police or listen to one word they say. While I am constantly trying to improve technique and content, I have learned to listen to myself and a few (very few) trusted artist friends.

I wish you good fortune on your art quilting journey.

Michigoose said...

Roberta! I'm in full agreement with you. I outlined it in a thin line of purple, thinking the same thing (without the benefit of Ellen Anne Eddy ;) ), but it wasn't enough. So, once I get it an dismantle it, I'll add another line of the black.

Incidently, that's in full keeping with the Celtic stuff as they did it too, calling it "tram lines" in the illuminated manuscripts, so I can't be too incorrect! Thanks so much. Lisa

trueblue said...

Hi Lisa,
I found your blog from "chai n spice" . It is truly amazing how you manage to pursue quilting so passionately. I love to quilt too ..but my sewing machine and other supplies haven't seen daylight in quite a while ( about 2.5 years now ,since my little boy came along).
Finding your blog was rather serendipitous. I am inspired to get back now. If not the sewing maching, at least something small hand-pieced & hand-quilted.
Thank you

ann said...

Your have taken needle felting to a totally new, higher level. GORGEOUS!