rocket tracking


Wednesday, September 28, 2011


My entry in the Keep It Simple Challenge

Recently, one of the on-line groups I belong to has been discussing challenges and whether or not they are a good thing, or a bad thing.  My response is: it depends.

I actually tend to do quite a few challenges.  I joined the Fast Friday Fabric Challenge in order to try to force me to work smaller (that's been successful) and to try to work more quickly and without as much thinking (this has not been successful....I still take a long time and tend to over-think things).

The major problem with challenges is that if you participate in too many of them, especially ones with lots of restrictions on materials, methods, or subject matter, then you might be working at the expense of your own "authentic" personal other words, doing what others say you should rather than working on your own art.  You can get caught up in the "busy-ness" and not develop your own style and body of work.

They can also cause you to mess around with materials or techniques which may or may not be yours...but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Exposure to new stuff helps you determine what is your "voice".  It also brings you a healthy appreciation for those people who do the technique and do it well.

However, I find that usually, I only enter challenges which fit in with an idea I have been banging around in my head.  Thus, the challenge gives me an opportunity to work and develop them, often on a smaller, prototype which can later be developed into a larger work....or thrown out.  AND (most importantly) it has a deadline.  I need deadlines.

I'd prefer to enter challenges which have the end result of having an actual show....but those seem to be few and far between.

However, I'm not above falling into a particular trap....well..hmm...situation? For instance, in April, when I was at the IQF show in Cincinnati, Liz Kettle buzzed by me and said "here, you need to do this," as she shoved a package into my hands...well...she said something like that, I don't remember what.  Did she probably mean it? Probably not...she was probably just desperate to off-load the package and I was the lucky one standing there....

The package was composed of three sets of fine suiting and shirting swatches from high end designers, a single grey necktie, and some buttons.  A little card said it was the Power Suit Challenge and was being put on by Artistic Artifacts.  We were to make an 18" square quilt using the materials and interpret the theme "Power Suit."  Hmmm..... I came up with several ideas, and while I was working on one of them, I decided to scrap it and do something entirely different.

Little did I know that since Liz had handed it to me, I was sort of off their radar.  I had the little tag and I finished mine and sent it in so it would supposedly get to Alexandria, VA on Aug. 31.  They had set up a yahoo group...and had other things to fill out which I didn't have.  So...I merely sent it in.  That show will open on Oct. 23 at the Artistic Artifacts Gallery.  I'm contemplating going.....after all, it's only 8 hours away and I have family there.

The other ideas I had actually fit into another challenge which is now going on with the Quiltart message list...the Unusual Materials signed up for that because I had already gathered the stuff to make the quilt and it fit the challenge.  Otherwise, I think the little bag of goodies would probably sit in my sewing room gathering threads.

Does it take away time from doing other "important work"?  Probably...especially dusting.  But on the other hand it fits in with the ideas I have and I am learning while I'm working on, challenges tend to be smaller.

So, rather than taking away from what I am doing, I see it as a great shove in the right direction....but you do have to be aware of what you're doing...which is why I am not going to participate in the crazy quilt challenge....I'm quite crazy enough already, thank you.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Someone over on the SAQA yahoo group made a comment about some people who were in the group were "dabblers" who were quick to try any technique which came down the pike and intimated that challenges were not for "serious" artists. She also went on to disparage quilters who worked in "photo realism."

I hope what she really meant was that SAQA is composed of two levels, Professional Artist Members and the regular crew.   Needless to say, I'm part of the regular crew and joined in part because I aspire to become better.  While I don't think there are enough days left for me to be a professional artist, in my heart of hearts, that's what I'd like.  However, I don't like being called a "dabbler."

These ducks, Mallards, are of a variety which are called "dabblers" as they float on the surface eating weeds and bugs and what they can get shallowly rather than being one of the diving ducks who dive with the purpose to grab a fish on the fly.  You can see, when you're a dabbler, you expose your backside.

I also don't think that participating in challenges which use a particular technique or material makes you a dabbler...someone not serious and driven to dive deep after that fish.  I usually participate in those types of challenges because I had been mulling over an idea which used either that technique or that material....and I think challenges drive you to produce...there's a deadline...which for me is always a good thing.

I don't think that there is anything wrong in experimentation with materials which may not be our norm.  We might indeed find that there is something which can really fit our vision or skills and they become incorporated into our tool box.  Or we may find that it just isn't for us.  Sometimes I think intellectually that I don't like something and by trying it out...I find I'm wrong...often just as much as I find I'm right. 

I don't see, however, where it is right to disparage either group...the divers or the dabblers.  Sometimes I get a bit grumpy about how people are reluctant to have their work critiqued, but that's because I see it as a vehicle to becoming better at what I do.  I do recognize that it is MY prejudice, and MY disappointment that I can't readily find a local group who is interested in critique.  But these are my issues and they shouldn't be projected on anyone else. 

The "realism" viewpoint is a horse I'm going to flog in another blog post.  Stay tuned.  Or not. :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Little Bit of Silliness

Self portrait: A night on Bald Mountain
I have been taking an on line class with Pamela Allen.  One of her exercises has us drawing inspiration from another artist's work or from another piece of art. 

One of the class members, Holly I think, chose Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" as her inspiration.  I happen to love Mussorgsky and enjoyed her rendition of the witches dancing on a mountain top.

Now, I know that a "bald mountain" is really one which has no trees....but I got the giggles as I thought about doing a self-portrait with me bald and  a bed on my head (how else can bald people have bed heads????) as a Night on Bald Mountain. it is.

Yes...very silly....and it only took me an hour to put together. Do you think it looks like me? as if I had rosacea???

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Buckeyes in the Garden

Today I took a little break and went out into the garden.  We've finally begun to get some rain.  It's been a very dry summer after a very wet spring and the result has been a lot of stress on the garden. 

I usually have a lot of butterflies, hummingbirds and other wildlife in my garden.  Now, the majority of the butterflies are Buckeyes (Junonia coenia), monarchs and the little  drab butterfly you see on the upper left  edge of this sedum.  I often look at my garden and sigh.  I think of Sunita and her wonderful exotic flowers and plants in her garden in India and our common butterflies instill her with the awe that hers instill in us?  You can see her blog  here.

In case you're wondering...the name "buckeye" has nothing to do with Ohio.  These butterfliesa are common in all parts of the US, except for the Northwest, and in southern Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Quebec, as well as in Central America and Columbia.  The name comes instead from the dots on the wings which resemble deer eyes.  The "eye spots" are thought to confuse birds.  They are kind of hard to photograph as they are constantly fanning their wings.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Slice of Dayton

Dayton Art Institute photographed by Ronnie Doyal

Dayton Art Institute in fabric. My slice.
On of the several projects I've been working on in the last few weeks has been a "slice" of the Dayton Art Institute. 

Last year, the Miami Valley Art Quilt Network decided to do a series of quilts based on familiar Dayton landmarks.  Ronnie Doyal, one of our members who is a professional photographer in addition to being a quilter, took photographs and Lori Gravley, Mindy Marik and I chose the shots.  We then sliced them up and handed the slices out to our members to interpret in fabric.  Mindy, Lori and I did the Dayton Art Institute to show as an example.  Lori got the left portion, I got the middle, and Mindy got the right portion.

While I had a good start on mine and had the majority of mine completed (or so I thought) by November of last year, my chemo and Meg's graduation got in the way.  At the July meeting, we had set the final date for getting them in as October, but at the August meeting it was changed to September.  Gulp.  I was taking Pamela Allen's online class "Think Like an Artist," had to finish quilting the borders and bind my daughter's quilt as well as get her ready to start college on Aug. 31, as well as have the Power Suit challenge done and sent.  

I madly went to work on the slice...and I'm amazed at how much time I put into it in even though I thought I was well on my way.  I finally finished quilting it tonight (although I am not terribly happy with the numbness in my hands means I don't have the fine control I usually do...and my upper tension disks were catching the thread and causing it to break at the needle...something I've had trouble with before, even though this time I cleaned the disks twice....

The part of the reflective stainless steel sculpture in my section IS reflective fabric...while it looks yellow in my shot, it is actually reflecting the ceiling light.  I used a metallic jersey fabric for it.  The body of the building is rust dyed fabric.  I can see that I need to work on the lettering some more as the photo of the slice shows how faint it is....when you see it in real life and up close I thought it looked stronger.   This is a prime example of how the camera is your friend in seeing flaws in your art.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"I may be crazy, but I might just be the Lunatic You're looking for....."

Susasn Pickerell and Maria Elkins
Well...sort of...I sometimes think I am ADD when it comes to quilting and fun things....I'm madly trying to finish the Dayton Landmarks slice so I can hand it in on Saturday as well as catch up with the on-line class with Pamela Allen ("Think Like and Artist.").

I suppose thinking like an artist might include attention deficit disorder, but I don't think REAL artists suffer from this...I imagine they are more disciplined.

You see, I've been wondering about some of the new stuff out there..and when Maria Elkins contacted me about working with her on a new series she's hoping to do for Quilting Arts, I jumped at it.

Maria plans on a series of working with new this case, DeColorant.  I purchased some in Cincinnati  but haven't had a chance to use it yet and I thought it might work well for what I had in mind for a fabric for the next part of Pamela's lessons...of which I am woefully behind...and while I was at it, I thought I'd make it work with the Fast Friday Challenge too....and I'm late on that one as well., Debra Bentley, Susan Pickrell, Maria Elkins and I did all sorts of stuff with DeColorant...testing, messing up, seeing what happens if you do this or that....and we'll do some more on I have to get back to the salt mines...but I thought you'd like to know what I'm up to ...before I end up strapped to an....oh, wait...that's in Billy Joel's song...not my life. :)

P.S. Apologies to Deb...she was working back at the ironing board when I took these....
Susan Pickerel and Maria Elkins (background) working hard.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Can't See the Forest for the Trees

Wow.  I've been up to my eyeballs...and still am with very little hope to get out for a while.  I finished my Power Suit quilt and sent it off at the end of August and deposited daughter at school on Aug. 31.  I've put it into high gear to try to get my Dayton Landmarks quilts done for next Sat., when I originally thought we were going to turn them in for October...and I'm still trying to finish up Pamela Allen's online class...which really ended last week...but I still have lessons 3 and 4 to do....Lesson 3 part 1 is sitting on my sewing table..I've been working on it a lot...cutting cutting cutting....being helped by Angel cat who insists on sitting on the part I'm working on and messing it up..

I hope to finish both Pamela's class and the Dayton Landmarks quilt and blog about both...but until then...stay posted....and if you find my superwoman cape...just FED-Ex or Priority Mail it to needed even use the USPS overnight mail...priority will do. :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Masters: Art Quilts vol. 2

This summer, I indulged myself once again by purchasing Masters: Art Quilts vol. 2.  I enjoyed the first volume in the series, but I think I like this one even more.  Lark Books wisely had Studio Art Quilt Associate's executive director Martha Sielman return to curate the second volume after her monumental work in 2008 with volume 1. 

I will have to go back and do a spot on comparison, but my initial response is that I enjoyed this one even more than the first volume. I think one of the things which I enjoy the most is that these books bring quilt artists who I have never heard of into focus, partly because the book showcases international quilt artists. 

The well done photos and interesting narrative about the artists would make this worthwhile, but the inspiration the book provides alone is worth the modest purchase price. 

I remember thinking when I read the first volume that I was surprised at some of the artists who were omitted.  I suspended that sort of value judgement this time around and just let myself enjoy.  However, I did wonder why the artists weren't arranged alphabetically as that would make it much easier to locate works by a particular artist.  I took another look at the book and thought to myself that it was arranged by what looked good next to each other, as if it were a show.  However, I contacted Martha to ask about this very thing. 

Here's what Martha had to say in an email response to me dated August 1:

"Choosing the artists for the Masters books involves a lot of research into who is doing what kinds of work and where they've been exhibited.  I need to balance several different factors: Lark wants only half of the artists to be American, and we try to have a diversity of people and a balance of different types of styles.  My aim is to have at least one artist that is a new discovery for every reader, but they all need to be artists with an established body of work.

The artists are arranged visually, like curating an exhibit.  We talked about alphabetical placement, but since it's not intended to be a research volume but to be an art volume, we arranged them so that they provide visual excitement moving from one artist to the next." 
So, this isn't to say that the artist you who think HAS to be included in this volume will be there.   However, here's the list of artists featured in volume 2:  Carolyn Crump, Jan Myers Newbury, Karin Franzen, Emily Richardson, Anna Torma, Chunghie Lee, Genevieve Attinger, Mirjam Pet-Jacobs, Pamela Fitzsimons, Paula Nadelstern, Dirkje van der Horst-Beetsma, Rosalie Dace, Leslie Gabrielse, Nelda Warkentin, Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade, Dianne Firth, Reiko Nganuma, Shulamit Liss, Alice Beaseley, Beatrice Lanter, Tafi Brown, Rise Nagin, Bente Vold Klausen, Jane Dunnewold, Laura Wasilowski, Arturo Alonzo Sandoval, Izabella Baykova, Daniela Dancelli, Margery Goodall, Linda MacDonald, Fenella Davies, Rachel Brumer, Maryline Collioud-Robert, Jim Smoote, Eleanor McCain, Patricia Malarcher, Misik Kim, Elizabeth Busch, Dorothy Caldwell and Tim Harding.
I'm looking forward to being able to see the accompanying exhibition. It will debut at the International Quilt Festival in Houston and I'll be able to see it when it travels to Cincinnati in April 2012.  One work from each artist will be on view.  Talk about inspirational!  I can't wait.  

In the meantime, I'll go back to struggling over the fabric choices for my "homework" for Pamela Allen's online class.  Lest you think I am benefiting in anyway from reviewing me...I'm not.  I am not anyone's official reviewer and if I thought it belonged cut up and used as ATCs, I'd be the first to tell you.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Quilt National 2011 Review

In the last post, I commented on a few things as to why I really liked this year's Quilt National Catalog.  I'll hit on a few more tonight. 

I have many of the previous catalogs....some exhibitions I've attended, others not.  To my mind, this edition is the best yet and one which is useful BEYOND being eye candy or a a souvenir of the show.  Why? It outlines exactly what they are looking for and considerations that anyone who is entering some of the more prestigious shows should think about.

After having watched "Stitched: The Documentary" and reading this edition, I understand far more about how pieces are considered and selected.  The importants of something which seems extremely fundamental, obtaining the best possible photographs of your piece, is driven home. 

I love the discussion about what each of the jurors brought to the process, what they were thinking and what they were looking for.  While we as individuals might not agree with them, I think that this is important in understanding the process and this show. 

Kathleen Dawson, the executive director of the Dairy Barn Art Center, wrote an impressive and thoughtful introduction.  It was a pleasure to see that ALL of the components had something to say and were not just fluff.

Yes, I'd like more photos with more details so we can see the texture of the stitches and understand that pieces often have a dimensional quality which doesn't show up easily....but I have to say, I keep on going back to it.

No, Lark Books didn't give me a free copy.  Nor do they know that I'm plugging their book.  Nor does Quilt National or the Dairy Barn Arts Center...Heck, they didn't select me for a potential reviewer for Masters: Art Quilts vol. 2, probably because I don't have enough followers or don't have enough "hits" to qualify...or maybe I just don't write well enough for them...but I have to say, you need to get a copy.  You can get it from your favorite bookstore, or from the Dairy Barn Art Center, or online...and yes, I sell used books on I'll give them a plug by sharing this link.  And no....I don't get anything from them fact, I'm going to have to close up my Amazon shop soon as I'm losing my shirt lately. can patronize your favorite library.....but please, please do take a look at this book.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Run, Don't Walk to Quilt National 2011

Wednesday, I dropped my daughter off for her freshman year at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.  I had hoped to get over to the Dairy Barn to see Quilt National one more time...but it was just too hectic with all the programs we had to attend (really) and moving too much stuff into a 10' x 12' room shared with another young woman....

Quilt National is a biennial exhibition of contemporary quilts exhibited at The Dairy Barn Arts Center, a converted dairy barn which once served the psychiatric hospital just up the ridge.  The show is always interesting and it will close on Monday, September 5th.  So, you really do have to run and see it.

Of course, you should run and see it just because it is a fantastic show.  Every two years, three jurors, two quilt (fiber) artists currently working in the field and who have name recognition and a third juror --usually from a related but outside field to bring a different perspective  review quilts and pick approximately 85 quilts from the submitted entries which meet the entry rules/guidelines and represent the best of what was offered. 

The rules state that the purpose of the show is:  "To promote the contemporary quilt by serving as a showcase for new work that provides the viewer with appreciation of the variety of techniques and innovative trends in the medium of layered and stitched fabric.  The jurors will select works that represent unique approaches to the medium and demonstrate the breadth and diversity of contemporary expressions.  Visitors to Quilt National 2011 will see that the time-honored traditions are thriving and are being expressed in new forms as today's artists rise to meet the challenges of new techniques and materials."    This year, Pauline Verbeek-Cowart, Eleanor McCain, and Nelda Warkentin served as jurors.  This year, over 1,000 quilts were submitted....and only 85 were chosen. 

Since coming to Ohio in 2005, I have been privileged to be able to attend three of the shows.  Each year, I think that the show is more exciting and interesting than the show previous. Even so, it is difficult for me to pick what pieces are my favorites. 

This year's show I thought was interesting on several levels.  I found that there was a theme, in a way, for the pieces which were submitted.  Many used subdued palettes, often using greys and neutrals.  Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of eye catching and bright quilts, but my overall feeling was far more subdued.  I also felt that the quilts shown were pieces which when using an innovative technique or material, it made sense.  That is, it wasn't using a different technique or material just for the sake of being different or cutting edge or just to use it, the selection of that particular material and technique added to the piece; the piece would have been diminished if it hadn't used the material.  In addition, the pieces were masterful in their use of material AND technique.  For instance, using found materials or "green" materials might be just a trend, or stuck in, but when Paula Kovarik used plastic grocery bags in her "Global Warming, The Great Unraveling", the bags not only fit her topic and what she was trying to say but were gorgeous...I wouldn't have thought of using them like she did and it really added to the quilt.  Kim Shearrow used all manner of recycled and unusual materials in her "Sunrise at Age 45"  which created an absolute masterpiece of color and texture worked into her large and wonderfully designed (and sparkly) piece (which by the way, the catalog doesn't do justice to).

One of the things which pleases me the most about this show is the response and discussions which it engenders.  I was very happy to have bumped into Beth Schillig, a fellow SAQA member and Ohioan at the show in the beginning of August.  Beth and I immediately started to talk animatedly about what we were seeing....and I was sad that my time was so limited that I had to buzz through the show and not talk with her more fully about her impressions.  When I have gotten together with others who have seen the show at different times, people have almost tittered with "I don't think that was a quilt" or "what did you think of ....." or "What was your favorite???"  I love this because when statements are made, then it gives a starting point for a full discussion. Why DO you like that one?  What makes it more successful?  Is it more successful than another piece, and if you think so, why?  Why do you think that this particular piece shouldn't be here, or isn't really a quilt???? 

Certainly, the catalog also has created quite a buzz on the Quiltart message list as well as on the SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) Yahoo group.  In fact, some of the discussion, particularly Eleanor McCain's comment "What about these works of art demands that they be formed from cloth and thread?  Is there a message and meaning that can only be revealed through this medium?  What in the quilt form is important to the art?  As a fiber art professor once asked 'If it's not about the fiber, why work in that medium (Eleanor McCain, Quilt National 2011:  The Best of Contemporary Quilts, Lark Crafts & the Dairy Barn Arts Center, p. 12.). 

The discussions which arose from this in some ways depressed me about what I was doing (the assertion that if a piece is representational --which most of mine are-- rather than abstract then it wasn't really an art quilt and wasn't worth thinking about).  It took a quick kick in the pants by Vivien Zepf to move me out of that bad train of thought.  I usually wait and buy the catalog at the Dairy Barn's gift shop as that way the Dairy Barn can benefit more from the proceeds.  Such heated discussions were arising out of the book, particularly from Eleanor McCain's comments and Pauline Verbeek-Cowart's comments (out of context, but generally her reaction that the first viewing she made of the entries she was looking for innovation and "was initially disappointed.  Not a single entry in my opinion represented that leap into new territory, or challenged conventional notions of the medium and stood as a radical new approach." (Ibid, p. 14), that I bought the book on Amazon so I could more fully understand the discussion and be able to look at the exhibition with a more critical eye developed from the discussions and reactions I was reading about.  Take a look here.

I'm really glad I did.  Although Andrea Lewis points out a problem in her foreword:  "Works in fiber were not meant to be experienced in two-dimensions.  Works in fiber are intended to be experienced firsthand, to allow the viewer to discover the nuances in surface texture and variations in color, and to appreciate the details articulated in stitches."  (Ibid., p. 6).    I agree....I must admit, even though I noted the size on the label in the book, when I saw Eleanor McCain's "9 Patch Color Study 7" at the show, I was blown away.  The illustration in the book is 3 1/2" square...the quilt measures 110" High by 109"'re just not prepared for this.

A terrific problem with the catalog is that there are no close ups so that you can see the texture and the stitching.  Everything is absolutely flat...Each quilt, for the most part, is represented by one photograph.  In the case of Jayne Bentley Gaskin's Solitude  this is a grave disservice.  Nothing in the catalog nor the description prepares you for the fact that this quilt is three dimensional.  The person and the backpack are dimensional...stuffed with fiberfill so that the backpack stands out from the surface of the quilt as a real backpack does.  My memory says that it is, or is almost, life sized.  It is an amazing concoction of thread and fiber to render this piece.  I do think that the color on this edition is better than it has been in the past. 

If you are able...please see the show.  While the entire show's last date in Athens is this coming Monday, Sept. 5, it will be divided into three traveling shows.  From October 2, 2011 - November 4, 2011, it will be in St. Charles, Missouri at the Foundry Art Center (all three parts); and Feb. 14, 2012 - April 29, 2012 San Jose, California:  The San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles (parts A and B only).  For additional locations/dates please contact the Dairy Barn Arts Center.  At the very least, get a copy of the catalog...I think you'll be glad you did.  And if you do...please put your thoughts on the show here...I'd love to hear your reactions and discuss the pieces as well.

I really wish that photos of the quilts were allowed....but they aren't and so you're stuck with the shots I have here. :)