Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Interview in Quilting Arts Magazine

I was recently selected as a featured artist for the August/September 2013 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine.  It was a fantastic experience working with the QA folks and Lyric Kinard did a wonderful job on the article. I hope you will purchase a copy of the magazine when it hits the stands in July. In the meantime, you can read an excerpt from the interview on the publisher's blog

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Quilt National 13 Opening Weekend

I was able to attend the opening weekend of Quilt National 13 in Athens, Ohio this past weekend. The jurors selected 85 pieces from 851 entries and truly, I believe they did an excellent job of creating a balanced show. There was a variety of figurative and abstract pieces, both large scale and smaller works, all strongly composed and beautifully executed. The gallery was open to the artists all weekend and I found myself wandering through the space in awe of the stunning works created by fellow artists.
The festivities began with an opening reception exclusively for collectors and the artists. We each received a copy of the catalog and many of the artists signed one another's books during those quiet hours before the gallery opened to the public. I was too busy enjoying myself to ask for autographs and had to spend the rest of the weekend catching up on getting signatures. It was fantastic to meet the artists in attendance, many of whom I have admired and followed online. I heard 69 of the 85 artists were there for the opening weekend, including artists from Australia, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

I'm glad that we had the time to wander around and see our work before the show opened to the public. I was so distracted in talking to everyone that I only got a handful of shots of the space before the crowds arrived.

Once the show opened at 5pm, it was difficult to photograph the art. But the energy and excitement was palpable.

The awards were announced on Friday night and there was a banquet following the reception. Sitting together, we had a chance to decompress, talk about the night and bond over such an amazing experience.

On Saturday morning, there was an Artist Walk and Talk. We were each given 2 minutes to discuss our work for those in attendance. It is so interesting to hear the story behind the art. Artists statements can only cover so much in such limited space. The Walk and Talk allowed the viewers to learn more about the artist's inspiration, process or just get a sense of the artist themselves. Our comments were recorded by the Dairy Barn. It will be interesting to see what becomes of those recordings. 

Other events for the weekend included, SAQA sponsored events (jurors panel, artist panel and talk by Kris Sazaki, incoming SAQA board president) and a breakfast sponsored by Friends of Fiber Art International.

The hardbound catalog was published by DragonThreads this year and will not be available on Amazon. You can purchase it directly from the publisher or through the Dairy Barn. I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy. 

While the catalog is beautifully done, the photos never really do the artwork justice. Being able to see the works up close, examine their every detail, was a thrilling experience. Here are a few detail shots:
detail from Round and Round by Paula Kovark
detail from Moonset by Brienne Brown
The crowds marveled over Paula Kovarik's Round and Round it Goes and Brienne Brown's Moonset. Their thread drawings were simply incredible. The patience, imagination and skill to create these pieces were evident and both pieces kept the viewers coming back time and time again to spend just one more minute exploring the details.
detail from Tracings III by Deidre Adams
Another piece rich in texture was Tracings III by Deidre Adams. I have long been a fan of her work and was especially thrilled to see it up close. There is so much to explore in her art and I enjoyed visiting and viewing it several times during the weekend.
detail from Plastic Trees #5, Olive Grove in Ampolla, Spain by Rita Merten
I was also drawn to the works utilizing recycled materials. Plastic Trees #5, Olive Grove in Ampolla, Spain by Rita Merten was constructed of new and recycled plastic bags. She fused the layers of plastic together with an iron and then quilted it like cloth. The result was a highly reflective surface that shimmered in the gallery.
detail from The City by Natalya Aikens
Natalya Aikens' piece, The City, was constructed of collaged recycled plastic, bubble wrap, dryer sheets and other materials. It created a wonderfully complex surface with a variety of textures to explore. 

If you are able to see the show in Athens this summer, I highly recommend it. The entire exhibit will travel to the St Louis University Museum of Art in late September 2013. After that, the show will tour in smaller groups throughout 2014. Don't miss it!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

El Cortez, Las Vegas

I am back from the opening weekend of Quilt National 13. It was amazing. There is so much I want to say about attending the opening and the experiences shared with the other artists, but real life is keeping me busy and away from the computer. I promise to write up my thoughts soon. In the meantime, I am excited to finally share images of El Cortez, Las Vegas.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

All about the fabrics

As the countdown to Quilt National 2013 continues, let's talk about fabric. I really enjoy the challenge of using cloth to create convincing realism in my work. The images are constructed from thousands of pieces of fabric and finding fabrics of just the right color and value to create dimensionality isn't always easy. Because my work is primarily sewn from fabrics purchased at local quilt shops and big box stores, I often spend hours shopping to get the colors right. I sometimes wonder if it would be easier to dye my own fabrics, but I really enjoy the search and I believe the printed surface of commercial fabrics  and the variation in hand dyed and batiked pieces adds to the visual interest of my work.

When I start shopping for fabrics, I typically hit my own stash first, culling sample swatches from the mix and getting an idea of what I need to purchase. I create a board of swatches before I go out. This helps to target my purchases by reminding me of what I have on hand, but these initial swatches frequently change after the first round of shopping.  Much of the final decision has to do with what is available in the stores at any given time. If I can't piece together a colorway using fabrics in my stash, I will purchase a full spectrum of fabrics with alternate choices. Sometimes the colors will look different in the studio, so having some other options on hand can save time.

The colors in El Cortez, Las Vegas are primarily turquoise blue, brown, white, black and red. While shopping for fabric, the light to mid range blues came together very quickly. I used a variety of hand dyed and batiked fabrics, with a couple of prints. The darkest values were impossible to find. Because I use a hand painted black in my work, it is often difficult to match the intensity of the black in the darker colors.  My solution is to use several layers of tulle to build up a rich shadow. In this case I used layers of navy and black tulle on top of a hand painted fabric to create a more complex dark blue that blended nicely with the full range of colors.

Occasionally, when I am sewing I discover that a fabric isn't working out the way I planned. The color is in the right family, but the print is too bright or too dark. Frequently, I flip it over to see if it works in reverse. Many of my pieces have examples of this technique, and El Cortez, Las Vegas is one of them. I loved the color of this print and felt it really worked in the rusted sections of the letters once I turned it over. It pays to be a little flexible when working in fabric. 

Where I struggled the most on this piece was finding the right range of browns. I wanted a reddish brown that was rich enough to compete with the turquoise. What I found time after time were browns that were too yellow or too dark. Against the turquoise, the yellowish browns felt flat and lifeless and the dark browns created a visual hole in the composition. I exhausted my local quilt stores. And truly, I started to panic. My deadline for Quilt National was drawing near and I didn't have a solution. I had found a handful of reddish browns that I thought worked together, but there was a gap in value. I could not find a fabric to bridge the mid range browns, until I came across this fabric in JoAnns:

I rarely look at novelty prints, but I was desperate. I am so thankful I found this while wandering around the store aimlessly, because the background of this M&M Halloween fabric was just what I needed to pull the browns together. I found it with a week to spare.

Overall there are 39 different fabrics in El Cortez, Las Vegas and 3 colors of tulle. 

If you are in Athens, Ohio for the opening on Friday, see if you can find the M&M fabric in my piece. If you look hard enough, you may even catch a glimpse of the characters...an odd foot or hand peeking out here or there. Boo.

This week I am grateful for: 
1. backup drives
2. lemonade
3. Southern California beaches
4. new shelves
5. time with family

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Finding Inspiration at the Neon Boneyard

Quilt National will be opening on May 24, 2013 in Athens, Ohio. I really want to share images of my piece that was accepted into this outstanding exhibition, but there are very strict guidelines that prevent me from doing so before the show officially opens. I will definitely post images here when I can. In the meantime, I thought I would share some fun facts leading up to the big reveal. Sound good? 

This was my first year entering Quilt National. As soon as I made up my mind that I was entering, I knew that I needed to find just the right sign to inspire me. I searched through my photo archives of old neon signs, but nothing seemed quite right. So, I decided to take a trip to the Neon Boneyard in Las Vegas to get some new inspiration.

The Neon Boneyard is amazing. It houses a collection of more than 150 signs from the Las Vegas strip dating back to the 1930s. It is one of the largest collections of neon signs in the world. Many of the pieces are iconic signs from hotels that defined an era--the Stardust, the Moulin Rouge, the Flamingo and the Golden Nugget. There are also tons of vintage signs from restaurants and businesses that are long gone. It is a pretty spectacular mix of neon and bulb signs.  

The majority of the collection is stored in what can only be described as a dirt lot that covers roughly two acres. The lot is surrounded by a high chain link fence. The signs are often just leaning against one another in small displays and collections of disparate letters. There is a lot of broken glass and rusted metal, which only adds to the appeal for me, but does require a bit of caution when maneuvering around the aisles. When I went in June 2012 things were still under construction for a new visitors center, so I arranged for a private fine art photo shoot. The benefit of a private shoot is that I had the place all to myself plus I have a release to use the images of the signs in my own artwork. As an artist, I think it is imperative to honor and respect the copyright laws for creating derivative works.

To say that I found inspiration there is an understatement. I only shot for an hour, but I came home with more than 1,200 pictures. I have posted some of them here on my blog from time to time, but I imagine that many future works will be created from the signs discovered on this adventure. If you are in the area, I highly recommend arranging a guided tour. The Neon Boneyard is part of the Neon Museum, which also encompasses the visitors center and various signs that have been restored and installed around the city. I applaud and support their efforts to preserve and exhibit these important visual and cultural icons of Las Vegas.

My Quilt National entry was created from a photo I took of an old El Cortez Hotel and Casino sign. I literally took dozens of photos of this sign and one of the other photos was the final inspiration. The hotel was built in the 1940s and is still standing. Some of the signage, however, has been replaced which is how this sign ended up in the Boneyard. The paint has faded away and there are areas of rusted metal, graffiti, scratches and gouges that create a wonderful patina. I love the looping script and the combination of bulbs and neon tubes in this vintage sign. I hope you enjoy seeing the finished product in a couple of weeks.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Welcome home, old friend

Last week, I received a package in the mail. The Stars Motel, Chicago came home from the Visions Art Museum. It’s lovely to see it again. In fact, it feels a little bit like seeing an old friend. My larger pieces take between 200-300 hours on average to complete and I often create pieces against a deadline for a juried show. As a result, I don’t get a chance to “live with them” before sending them off into the world. As you can imagine, after spending so much time working on something it can be hard to part with it, even for a little while. So, I was really excited to have it come home. I have hung it on the wall in our living room so I can see it every day. I love that each time I look at it, I see something new. 

Oh, and did I mention it was selected for the President’s Award? Pretty awesome.
This week I am grateful for:
1. Ikea
2. sweet potatoes
3. Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX lens
4. good lighting
5. Hulu

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Three Years Cancer-free

This weekend, on March 24, I will be celebrating a very special anniversary. My cancerversary. For most cancer survivors, the date when you first learned of your diagnosis is forever ingrained in your mind and every year that passes is met with a huge sigh of relief. The goal for many of us is to reach the 5-year mark—the mark that effectively says you are cured. Well, as cured as anyone with cancer can ever be. We all know cancer doesn’t always play by the rules. On Sunday, I will be another year closer to that mark. I will be three years cancer-free.

Once you have been diagnosed with cancer, life fundamentally shifts. They call it the “new normal”. You can never really go back to living your life the way it was before your diagnosis. I guess that is good and bad. I certainly feel anxious and vulnerable this time of year. I routinely question every ache and pain in a way that I never did before cancer. I no longer feel invincible. But cancer also reminded me that life is short, encouraged me to love big, and well…got me back to making art.

I was 38 when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I think it is normal to reflect on your life when you are faced with a life trauma. You wonder, have I lived a full life? Do I have any regrets? What can I learn from all of this? On reflection, at that moment, I knew that I had lived a pretty blessed life. I had a wonderful family who loved me. I was married to my best friend and love of my life. I was surrounded by friends who truly understood me. I had jobs that had fulfilled me. And I was a new mom to a 5-week-old baby girl. A dream I had thought might never come true. When all was said and done, the only regret I had was that I had stopped creating.

So once I was feeling a little stronger, I got back into the daily practice of creating art. It was incredibly healing for me. This piece was the first work I made after my diagnosis. It was created for a traveling exhibit titled “Discovery.” It is a self-portrait during chemo.

I was lucky that my cancer was caught early. I have an excellent prognosis. That is not the case for most women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The symptoms of ovarian cancer are frequently dismissed as digestive issues and women fail to get treatment early, whether they ignore the warning signs themselves or their health care provider misses the diagnosis. I urge you to get to the doctor if you have any of the following symptoms and have been experiencing them for more than three weeks. You know your body. Be your own best advocate.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:

  • Abdominal pressure, fullness, swelling or bloating
  • Pelvic discomfort or pain
  • Persistent indigestion, gas or nausea
  • Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
  • Changes in bladder habits, including a frequent need to urinate
  • Loss of appetite or quickly feeling full
  • Increased abdominal girth or clothes fitting tighter around your waist
  • A persistent lack of energy
  • Low back pain

This week I am grateful for:
1. being cancer free 

2. sharpie markers
3. a full night of sleep 

4. comfortable shoes 
5. the unconditional love of my spouse

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sorting out the mess

And six months later…

While I haven’t been in the studio, I have been busy. It is hard to believe that our little girl is almost six months old. What an amazing journey. But now that things are starting to settle down and we are finding our routine, I am hoping to get back to a daily practice of making art.

Where did this mess come from?

Every now and then my studio becomes a dumping ground for the rest of the house. I can try and blame my family for that, but really it’s my own fault. It’s the curse of having a home studio. Sometimes it is just easier to hide things away behind the closed door rather than deal with them. Out of sight, out of mind. But since I was literally on the last stitch of my Quilt National submission when Maya was born, things have gotten out of control in the studio. Six months of clutter. Plus, I never cleaned up my studio back in September. That’s not how I like to leave things. I may be messy during a project, but afterward, I like to put everything back in its place. So, while I have not had time to create in the studio over the last six months, I decided that a good swift cleaning was in order before I start on anything new. First things first, getting control of my fabric.

Like most textile artists, I have an abundance of fabric. And while I typically purchase fabrics with a particular piece in mind, sometimes those fabrics don’t work out exactly the way I planned. So they stack up. And stack up. For a while I used a series of hanging organizers in my closet to hold them all. When I outgrew those, the fabric piled up in baskets. It really became too much. So I have emptied out the drawers in my studio armoire and started folding the fabric on boards.

It was a huge effort, but most of the fabric is now neatly tucked away in the drawers. Slowly the studio is coming back to life. Of course, that just takes care of the larger yardage. For those who have seen my work in person, you know that I often use pieces smaller than a pencil eraser. So, there is more organizing on the horizon. Look out scraps. I have my eye on you.

This week I am grateful for:

1. baby giggles
2. sunshine
3. iced tea
4. having a studio space

5. nap time