Friday, August 31, 2007

On the Road Again

This time tomorrow I will be sitting on an airplane waiting to take off on vacation. We're off to Wyoming to Yellowstone and Grand Teton. This is about the 5th time we've been there. I just never get tired of that area and there is always something new to see. We've got some hikes planned that will be new to us and will provide all sorts of opportunities for taking pictures. I think that the majority of our luggage is electronic: cameras (many) and a laptop computer. Clothes, the bare minimum. I always pack too many clothes so I'm trying to be very efficient. It's odd to be packing for freezing weather when it's been so hot here, but the lows at Yellowstone have been in the 20's. Yet by the middle of the day, it's t-shirts and shorts. So the word is Layers.

These are pictures I took last year. Old Faithful erupting at dawn.

And a view of the Tetons.

Here is a link to the webcam that looks out onto Old Faithful. I have checked this webcam nearly every day this past year. In the dead of winter when the roads are closed and there are no tourists, it's sort of cool to be able to see what's happening, or not happening. Sometimes bison or moose cross the geyser field.

There's no Internet access in the National Parks so I will be out of touch until I return home with lots of great pictures and interesting stories of wildlife encounters. Just not too close.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

On Entering Shows

In looking over my resume I am struck by the change from years past. I used to enter many more shows in recent years than I have so far this year. And I wonder, what is the reason? I know exactly why I no longer enter weekend pole-and-drape quilt shows: it costs just as much to enter one of those as it does to enter a month long show and I really want to exhibit to a wider audience than that which a weekend show attracts. Plus there is little possibility for a sale, not that I've sold much at month long shows.

But there are tons of month-long juried fiber art shows these days and I could spend all my time entering those. And I haven't done much of that either. The first four months of this year I spent in making work for the QSDS Invitational, and then I got busy with other stuff and have slacked off considerably.

I spent nearly all day yesterday preparing 3 entries. And I had already prepared an entry earlier this month. So, 4 entries. Of these, 2 are for month long fiber-only shows, 1 is for fine crafts, and one is totally art. I think my chances of getting into the quilt shows are pretty good but not sure things. The other two are way less certain, actually I would be surprised if I was accepted.

My theory is that if you get accepted into everything you enter, you aren't aiming high enough. This can be a little tough on one's ego, getting rejection letters. But, on the other hand, what kind of satisfaction is there in getting into a show when it's a sure thing? And what if, for some reason, I would get rejected from something I thought was a 'sure thing'? That would be a real blow.

So with these 4 entries, and a few more that I want to enter coming up (why is everything due in September and October, no matter when the show is?), keeping track of things becomes a real challenge. It would not be good policy to double enter something. I keep track of all my work in a database, along with all the show information, and what's been entered where. But I needed a visual representation to ensure against overlap. For this I used Microsoft Excel, created a calendar, and used shading to show the duration of each show. Writing the names of the pieces entered in each show in the shaded areas made it easier to see what I was committing and when and how long.

And here's a real dilemma - Quilt Visions in San Diego. A prestigious show with a full color catalog, something beneficial. But it costs $70 to enter! And they keep the quilt for an entire year. It's definitely not a 'sure thing' type show, and I really have to think about spending that much entry money and possibly losing a piece for an entire year. Luckily, I can ponder that for several months, as the deadline isn't until January.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Comments on Gee's Bend Comments

I was going to post this as a comment, but it was getting too long, so here it is.

Karoda - I think that very often art is judged by who the artist is. I know that I have read articles (Robert Genn, I think) where a piece of art by a well known and respected artist was presented to a group (without their knowing who the artist was) and their comments were less than enthusiastic. And somewhere on YouTube is a video of a world famous concert violinist playing in the DC Metro and pretty much totally ignored. But in these cases the artists had made their own way up in the art world and their notoriety was the result of that.

In the case of the Gee's Bend quilts, their notoriety was given a huge shove by William Arnett, et al. That's not to say that some of those artists don't deserve this because without it they would be doing their art in obscurity and unappreciated. In any group there is going to be a range of talent, and some of the Gee's Bend quilters are more talented than others, yet they are all considered pretty much equal. But my point about white, middle-aged, suburban women is this: if W Arnett had been presented with the same quilts but they had been made by the these women, he would not have seen any potential in promoting them. There is a tremendous back story about the Gee's Bend Quilters, and I think that contributes greatly to their interest and value.

I would like to read that article that you mentioned.

There is a catalog for this show. The catalog includes many more quilts than what was on display, plus lots of text.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Gee's Bend Quilts and more

Better late than never. Yesterday I finally got to the Gee's Bend exhibit at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. It closes tomorrow. It's been running since mid-June and between traveling and procrastinating, I just never quite got there. It closes tomorrow so I was just in time.

So what did I think of it? No matter what you think of the Arnetts (the promoters) it's easy to see that they have done a magnificent job in bringing these quilts to the public. Books, museum exhibits, licensing agreements, rugs - they have explored many outlets for these designs.

In the exhibit were quilts from the early 20th century, before the Gee's Bend quilters were discovered. These quilts were utilitarian and made from old clothes and other used cloth. Work pants were a favorite resource and it's interesting to see the pockets included and notice that the worn knee areas are incorporated into the design. In the 70's Sears Roebuck contracted the quilters to make pillows out of corduroy and so they were able to recycle the corduroy scraps into quilts. Lots of avocado green showing up in these pieces. Working with such heavy fabric had to have been difficult.

The modern pieces, at least some of them, show a definite concern and skill with design. Others look like they were made because the designer wanted to be included on the band wagon. Often the photograph of the work presented it in a far better fashion than the original piece. I found some of the unskillful workmanship offputting. I am not one who counts stitches per inch or obsesses about perfect points but when technique jumps out and grabs you because it's so noticeable, it had better be good. Not totally the case here. I think the photographs were able to emphasize the graphic quality and design, which are the strong points of these works. If these quilts had been done by middle-aged, white, suburban women they would not have received the kudos and exposure these pieces are getting. Of course, part of the interest lies in the ability of the Gee's Bend women to make art with such limited resources and in such relative obscurity for so long. In this case, the maker is just as important, or more so, than the work.

And other stuff...
I've been working on deconstructed screen printing, after getting my interest flowing again. I had some packages of Print Paste mix from ProChem that I had purchased a while back, sitting in the closet waiting for just such a moment. The Print Paste is pre-mixed with all the chemicals needed and all you need to do is add water. I mixed it up, and added dye powders, and started making my screens. And much to my dismay, the dye pastes haloed on the screens. Where I had drawn a line with a syringe, the color oozed away from the line and spread out. Nothing stayed crisp. It was difficult to get the screens to dry.

See what I'm talking about? Those X's are bleeding all over the place. I suspected that the urea was the root of this problem. Urea is the wetting agent - keeps the dyes moist so that they can batch, or fix, over the 24 hours that they need to work. Looking at the recipe for mixing up print paste from scratch (on the ProChem site) and comparing it to the one that Kerr Grabowski gave us, I realized that ProChem's recipe used twice as much urea. I think that their premix also has the same amount of urea as their recipe. This may work great in Arizona where it's dry and keeping things moist is difficult, but in Maryland in summer, moist is not our problem.

I was stuck with the dyes already mixed in the print paste. But I have more alginate, and made up a new batch of print paste from scratch and omitted the urea entirely, then mixed that with the clear print paste. That cut the amount of urea in half. I also used a hair dryer to help dry the dye paste on the screens, and set the screens in front of a fan to keep the air moving. All of this seemed to help.

This is the fabric screened from those X's. OK, but the halos make for blurry outlines, not those cool edges I got while at QSDS. It's part of the process to be very unpredictable. However, I'm glad I was able to see the differences between QSDS and home because I would have been discouraged if all I had to go on was those blurry images. I'm still working on this and have lots of dye paste left. As usual, I mixed up way more than I probably needed.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

An Excellent Catalog

I received the catalog Quilt Art 22 - Under Construction yesterday. It's a catalog of the exhibit of the European group Quilt Art and it's a fascinating look at not only the work of these 20 fiber artists but also the thought processes and planning that goes into her piece in the exhibit. There are pictures of studios, sketch books, inspiration photographs, along with explanations of how and why they chose to do what they did. I love to see the process behind the work, and it's so interesting to see how different people are in their approach to what they're trying to do. I highly recommend this little catalog. It's small in format, about 5.5" x 5.5", but there are 96 pages of color images, and it's beautifully presented. Charlotte Yde is the graphic designer and editor and is also one of the artists in the group. Others in the group are Bethan Ash, Elizabeth Brimelow, Sally-Ann Boyd, Fenella Davies, Ann Fahy, Dirkje van der Horst-Beetsma, Inge Hueber, Sara Impey, Bridget Ingram-Bartholomaus, Jane Lloyd, Sandra Meech, Evelyn Montague, Mirjam Pet-Jacobs, Karina Thompson, Janet Twin. And also my friends Linda Colsh, Dominie Nash, and Jette Clover. I really like the fact that I'm hanging around with such accomplished and talented people.

Their website is here.

If you would like a copy of this catalog (in the USA) email Dominie. The cost is $25 plus $3.50 shipping.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Deconstructed screen printing

In June I took Kerr Grabowski's Deconstructed Screen Printing class at QSDS. I have already posted some of the results, here and here. My friend Linda in Belgium and I are having a conversation about this technique, our successes and less than desireables. I thought I would put my pictures on my blog and discuss them here rather than send them to her in an email. That way the rest of you can see what a cool process this is. I highly recommend the DVD that Kerr has made. It's 3 1/2 hours long, costs $35, and takes you through the process from start to finish.

These are in no particular order and since when you do the upload it always puts the most recent pics at the top of the post, it's even more un-ordered. If I had planned better I would have started at the bottom of my upload folder, but I always forget about that. Most of the fabrics began as white with the color added during the screening process. If the fabric was already dyed a color, I mention that.

Multiple screens were used to get this piece. Some had already been used previously and were nearly totally deconstructed and others were still unused. The screens were different sizes and there were many textures.

Closeup. I think those are confetti like pieces of paper making those cross hatch lines.

Definitely a cut paper stencil making the tree shape.

Texture only.

Screened over a furnace filter. Release color is sort of yellow/green.

Screened with dye paste through a thermofax screen (the spiral shape), then drew little squares and rectangles with a curved tip syringe, all in a green color. The fabric was already dyed sort of gold; the release paste color is yellowish.

Another view.

This is two different screens. The parallel lines are newspaper stencils. Behind that you can see the screen that I did over top of a stamp (see the original several pictures down the page).

This is what Kerr describes as ghost printing. I made the screen with a torn paper stencil, leaving lots of open space. For the first pull (on the right) I loaded the screen up with black thick dye and pulled the image. The second pull (immediately to its left) was done without adding any more thick dye, so only what was already on the screen. The third pull (again, move left) there is barely any dye left on the screen and all you see are the ghostly outlines of the stencil. The scribble lines are done later with the curved tip syringe. The fabric was already dyed gold.

The background screen was some kind of textural thing. The writing is the formula for urea water and thickened alginate. This was two separate screenings as I let the background batch before doing the writing part.

Another view.

On this piece I put a stamp that I made under the screen, then pulled brown dye paste. Screened with uncolored release paste. At least I think that's what I did.

A closer view.

Torn paper stencil, screened with screen lying on top of kraft paper with red-brown dye paste. The kraft paper wrinkles up when it gets wet and gives that sort of bark-like texture.

The above piece is one of the few that I didn't like. I first drew a spiral and some dots on the screen with black thickened dye. After it dried, painted red and yellow thickened dye. After that dried, screened with alginate.

The screen was done with torn paper and a textured background. The background fabric was already dyed gold. Released with red thickened dye. The solid red areas are when the paper was removed from the back of the screen so that the red went through immediately.

I think orange dye paste went on the screen with some kind of texture. Then screened with yellow thick dye. As the orange deconstructed, more of the yellow shows.

The screen has torn bits of paper as a stencil, then red dye paste was screened with the screen on top of a metalic grid to get the diagonal shapes. Screened with yellow thick dye.

I drew a grid on the screen with thickened dye, I think in a dark red color. The fabric was dyed yellow and I screened with a brownish color.

Then since there was still a fair amount of grid on the screen, I did a second piece of fabric. This piece of fabric was already dyed a sort of goldy-yellow. The release color I don't remember.