It seems that we are trying to get back to the normal pace of life these last few months! I have had some success in shows and fun on a podcast. Here is the info to get you caught up!
Just Thinking, recently won the Janome Prize for Innovation in Artistry at the 2021 International Quilt Festival. and will now be touring with the Festival until late 2022. This was a great honor and a validation of a piece where my goal was innovation in both technique and subject.
A short interview I did with the festival about this quilt can be found on my PROCESS AND VIDEOS page.
I had several other quilts in the show as well. Here are those:
.At the 2021 Quilt National Biennial Show., 6" of Chaos won the Award of Excellence from the International Quilt Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska. This award was a purchase awar, and my quilt will now be part of their permanent collection.
It was a majow honor and surprise to get this award, and the weekend spent there was lovely. Just to see old friends and make new ones, and talk fiber art all weekend.
See my Process and Video section for the interview about this quilt.
Recently I posted this photo of a pepper on Facebook. It was sitting on the counter after Jon had finished making our salads... just sitting there staring at me. Yes, I am familiar with the phenomena of pareidolia, but I just found this humorous.
When I posted this, one of the comments that appeared was "You see art in everything". That statement took me back for a moment and made me think for a couple of days. Yes. Yes, I do see art in everything. It takes my breath away when I look around. I am amazed that that a brick and weed and the sun light can compose the perfect still life. I think the cigarette butt on the sidewalk is both a statement and a story - as well as an interesting composition. I am easily amused and impressed. The edge of that brick building against that blue sky is the perfection of complementary color. The fog that shrouds that parking structure, while letting the dried weed be in extreme focus, is more than I can comprehend replicating.
On the way home from my studio tonight, I saw this image in a bank drive through. Eat your heart out all you abstract expressionists. Frame it, put it in the east wing of the National Gallery and let the critics opine.
They can write a missive on the tension between the lines vs the splashes, the contrast of the darks and lights. The significance of the shapes, or maybe they would discourse over the need for a pop of color. They would check the title for political or social significance. And contextualize it based on the culture from which the artist came.
Was it art before or does it take validation or reproduction to be so?
As I thought more about this, I thought about the very real discomfort I feel when some says, or asks if, I am an artist. Okay. Whatever. If I need to be qualified or quantified, you can call me that.
But, as I have said before, I prefer "maker". I make stuff. It wasn't there. It didn't exist and I birthed it. I used my intellect, my heart and, occasionally, serendipity to do so. I made it.
As I thought more about this, I decided that, perhaps, the real aim of an "artist" is not the product they make, but the continued attempt to make others see the art that already exists around us. I make for my own sake. Maybe we are - or should be - translators. I do believe people called artists see and appreciate differently; just as scientists, or mathematicians, or musicians, or chefs view their world differently. Then we attempt to use our human talents, venues, media, and connections to try to get others to see what and how we saw (or tasted or figured). It is how we write. It is how we solve equations. It is how we bake.
Some of this we learn through academics. We spend hours and years in drawing classes not drawing the cube we know exists, but instead, the cube as we see it. Then we move to foreshortening in life drawing and still life compositions where we talk about the space between not just the objects. We learn to see with our eyes, not our head. Once we can do that, we start to understand how what we see exists for only a moment: a tilt of the head or the cloud momentarily over the sun can change the reality. How our specific moment and object of focus is a reality that no one else experiences in the same way.
We are constantly saying "CAN'T YOU SEE THIS TOO?" and "OH YOU MUST SEE THIS". The landscape painter tries to capture and explain the moment of clarity they had when looking out on nature. The portrait artist doesn't paint just the resemblance, but the inner person as they saw or felt it. The photographer captures a moment that perhaps only they had the acumen/patience/luck to witness. The abstracters capture essence or movement or the core of something that needs no subject.
I am about to stop my studio work for a period of six months. Part of this is because I have been having one of those "what does it all mean? Why do I do this? Who cares?" periods we all go through. I still have the compulsion to make, but at this time of my life, I am not trying to monetize, I am not trying make statements, I have no great affinity for mastering a specific craft or media, so what to do with this compulsion, and where is it best directed. I am thinking this chunk of driveway might be a clue.
My life and heart are full and amazed just walking down the street; nature or concrete or people or whatever is before me surpasses most of what I could ever make. I often feel that trying to make art is futile and the real goal I am striving for is just to see what is already out there.
So now to figure out how or if I can or should just improve my seeing, or if I also try to translate to others.
And if so, how.
Of course, Degas figured this our long before I had my own "ah ha" moment:
"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."
That has to be one of the most discussed and least settled on questions ever asked. I know I have made art, been called an artist, enjoyed art, bought art, sold art, and even taught art, but still can not define the slippery beast!
For many years I worked in the corporate world making “commercial” art (aka Graphic Design). It paid my grocery bills and car payments, it allowed me to use all those elements of design I had learned in school. My art satisfied a need. It helped some people get rich(er), it helped make people aware of products and services they needed (or didn’t know they did!). It was problem solving and satisfying for the most part. Was it art? Who knows.
When abandoned by the corporate world due to economy and age, I turned to what many would define as craft, not art. For seven plus years I bought hundreds of thrift store sweaters, then surgically removed the arms, the necks, and strategically cut the rest to make hats, sweater coats, scarves, gloves, etc etc. It was satisfying. People responded to them and bought this “art” to incorporate into their daily lives.
It was so fun to take my wares across the country and see people try on one after another. Some people had saved up their money to buy that one special art-to-wear garment. Others bought two or three, just as they would buy at Macy’s! I am sure the painters and sculptors in the booths around me (often waiting far longer for a sale) often though that my work was not real art. But people were choosing and noticing the colors, the textures, the technique and the overall uniqueness… isn’t that art? And it was so personal compared to the corporate art. It was personal to both me as I would drape a sweater over their back, and to them as they twirled in front of the mirror. Something aesthetically pleasing was giving them joy: Isn’t that art?
Now I am doing fiber art. Some are still slow to consider that an art media, but I will leave that discussion for another day. I have painted and made prints. I can honestly say that working with fiber has every bit of the same demand for aesthetic choice and technical knowledge that they did. But my audience and the “raison d'etre”has changed.
The corporate work was done primarily to meet the demand and needs of the client (within my own design voice and choices) and were by their nature both timely and ephemeral. The garments were made with a general demographic in mind and the cost/profit ratio, as well as the artistic merit, was important with each thing I made. They were meant to be used and used up. My fiber art is self-directed and I am, in many ways, the only audience considered during creation. I do not do commissions, and will do themed shows only when the theme speaks to me. It is the kind of art that is somehow deemed precious because it goes on walls with no apparent use other than aesthetics.
People do respond to my fiber work, and for that I am grateful, but it is always both a bit of a surprise and causes a bit of anxiety. Their response is so unplanned by me; I was working on something personal, and for them to respond is almost unnervingly intimate.
I want people to see my work and, as I have said, the stitching and fabric help to show “how I as an artist see” - but I have no preconception of what they will see, or if they see what I saw. Some respond to the subject matter. Some respond to the color choice. Some respond to the intricacy. Those are all valid, but all dependent on their history, aesthetic taste, knowledge of process - all things I do not control or anticipate. It is a strange thing, this thing we call fine art. The art that is not marketing, not utilitarian, not commissioned. It has been a hard concept for me to embrace.
I have been asked to give workshops, or presented with other opportunities. That is also something I tried a couple times, but haven’t gotten my head around. When I was a Graphic Designer, I also taught. I taught design concepts, color theory, printing processes, etc. the nuts and bolts. When I was making sweaters, I was fine with sharing my technical knowledge about how to serge knitted fabrics, or my process. It was not proprietary and the construction was, in many ways, the idea of it all. It had no internal value to me. That was all knowledge I gladly shared without any problem.
But now? What would I share? I use my design concepts, etc. but that is not what makes my work unique, nor my expertise any greater than many. I use a machine and various cutting and sewing processes, but that is not my interest or focus, they are merely a means to an end. I don’t even know what brand thread I use (or should use!). My process is “whatever it takes”!
How would I convey that intimate sound my heart makes when I know something is right. How do I explain that shiver that goes up my spine when the right stitch makes the right texture. How do I communicate how after looking at twenty five of my photos, that one says “I am the one you need”. That is all good and fine, and I am loving that is what I am able to do now - with little thought to profit or demographic appeal, but in many ways, it is very ego-centric and almost art masturbation. But it can be seen for some reason, as some higher level of art, but I don’t think it is.
Yesterday this girl came into my studio. At the gift giving season, I revert to the selling mode of my garment making days and make some earrings, gloves, and this year, holiday themed masks! The girl looked at my table of goods and picked out a soft cashmere pair of gloves. She didn’t care about the “fine art” hanging in my studio, she wanted those gloves in her life. She got them. I can honestly say that no one who has bought any of my “fine art” ever has expressed the pure joy of having it in their life, that she did for these gloves. Isn’t that art?
As I mentioned the other day, my piece "6' of Chaos" was just invited to show in Quilt National 2021. Here is some info about how it was created. There are three main stages, with many small stages in between.
First there is the photography. I take photos a lot. I have thousands in my computer. Only a few of these will become fiber works. If the photo speaks on its own, it doesn't need more, but some photos are just a recording of WHAT I saw, and not really HOW I saw it. Those photos need the textures and layer of fiber to complete their story.
Secondly is photo manipulation. Sometimes a photo just needs some edits of contrast, or cropping or some minor color adjustments, but sometimes, like in this case, many images are merged together to form a new image. Each is manipulated with my editing program, then merged into one image. The finished file is then sent to be printed on fabric. The photo becomes the starting point; sometimes just an underlying sketch for my finished piece. It is an important step because it is where I make my base color, contrast, and composition decisions.
Finally is the layered construction of the process. This can include layers of additional fabrics either above or below the photo fabric, hand and machine stitching, couching of yarns, fabric paint, or whatever it takes to create the colors or textures that I need for the piece. On some pieces non-fiber items like found objects or produce netting is added.
Together these stages create a unique image and surface for my work;
one that neither photography or fiber could create on their own.
The photo manipulation
After the fabric is returned with the photo printed on it, I start to add the layers of additional colors and textures. I have used some of the same techniques I show on the DEMONSTRATION page, but also some additional ones that are unique to this piece. Below are some detail shots and information about the process(es) used in that area.
I have been waiting for today. This is notification day for the Quilt National show. This show is held ever two years, and the show host a variety of contemporary and international art quilts. As with all juried shows, the exhibit slants differently every year, due to the subjective nature of jurying. I have no doubt that each jurist tries their hardest to be fair and that is appreciated, but when compiling a "best of" grouping, it is impossible not to have your own opinions. I say this to recognize the difficulty of being a jurist (I have done so in the advertising world, so I empathize), to console the makers of pieces that may not have been juried in, and to explain my anticipation for the day, because it is always an unknown.
I submitted three pieces to the judging. The first one "Dystopia in the time of Covid" (34wx60h) is based on the "doom and gloom" of the dystopia that is 2020. The dog toy is an image that I had, and the first time I saw a picture of the virus, that is exactly what I thought it looked like. The collage image is printed on chiffon, and behind the chiffon is a grid made from the remnants of the masks I made for the protection of family and friends.
The second piece I submitted was this self portrait, "Just Thinking" (50wx36h). The background of this one is woven fabrics, and the weaving blends into the image via some painting and the stitching. The image itself was printed black and white on a linen-like canvas. It was then hand 'colorized' with fabric paint.
The third piece, "6' of Chaos" (52wx36h) is also influenced by the Covid world we are all now a part of. Our world seems a bit surreal right now, and I wanted to make this piece feel that way. It is a combination of three photos, with stenciled figures and paint as well as layers of fabric, yarns and stitching. It was my hope that this is the one that would be chosen if I was successful with my entry. I tried so many processes to get the textures and images I wanted. I thought the concept was strong, and the quilt techniques were unique in their use, if not their process!
Happily the judges agreed. This will be appearing in the 2021 Quilt National next June through September in Athens, Ohio at the Dairy Barn. Tomorrow, I will write another blog entry about the processes I used to make this one. So if you want to know more, stay tuned!
*"Fat envelope is a carry over from when you were notified be snail mail, not email. The "skinny envelope" contained only a rejection letter, while the "fat envelope" contained the acceptance, show information, and contracts.
The McGuffey Art Center, where my studio is housed, has been closed since March. This means the galleries have been empty, the classes unattended, the life drawing sessions called off, and visitors to our studios non-existent. Itis the right thing to do. It is understandable, and in fact, the solitude (we artists are allowed in our private studios) has been better than I thought it would be. It has been a productive, if not solitary time for me.
This month two alternatives have been found. The life drawing sessions have resumed the last two weeks. We are outside and we are masked, but we are drawing again! This is also the best time of year (IMHO) for weather in Virginia. The sun is bright, the humidity is down, and the breezes are refreshing. All this makes for well attended and productive sessions! Here are some of my drawings from the recent sessions:
Just came home from the whirlwind weekend at the Quilt National Show. This was my first time entering and first time accepted and for that I am honored and grateful. It turns out that about 30% of the entrants were first timers. I would love to know the reason for this (even I like statistics now and then!) Is that normal? Did the more experienced not enter? Is there that much of a surge in new art quilters? A fluke? Judging criteria? Just one of those things that makes you go "hhmmmmmmm"
I must admit that after seeing the show I kinda wondered how my piece [stylistically] got/fit in! I think in the whole show of 90+ pieces there were about five "figurative" pieces, surrounded by colorful (and beautifully done) abstracts. There was one 3-d piece. Again, please understand I am not disparaging either the judging or the accepted entries, but I am confused about the ongoing intent of the show. There are so many wonderful directions that Art Quilting has taken recently that I was a bit confused about the lack of diversity in styles, medium and content. Is it a showcase for the trends that happened in Art Quilting, or is it an inspiring showcase for possibilities! Each show venue lives with a reputation and expectations. QN is grandmother of them all, and as such has both a history to live up to and laurels to ride on.
Now for the good part! My absolute favorite of the show was Jean Wells Keenan's No Stone Unturned. It was the epitome of that which could not be done in any other media. The colors are cloth colors. The textures are stitched textures (both hand and machine), The concept is both universal and intimate. It hit every tick box for me!
Betty Busby continues to be an innovative and positive force for the Art Quilt world. Never resting on a style or technique, she pushes ahead with obvious joy and skill! One year a quilt, one year a vessel, this year a wall sculpture. BUT all recognizable on some level (color? whimsy? craft?) as a "Betty".This year it was Coloratura. A piece inspired by Opera. Thanks for all you do, Betty!
Of the prize winners, I was so happy to see Dinah Sargeant's Riverstrong get recognized. This was another piece that took joy in fabric. Each surface considered. Each stitch meaningful. One of those pieces that is not "Art Quilting". It is simply "Art".
Here are a few details of some of the other award winners. Best in Show, Karen Schultz. Upper left: Emerging Artist, Irene Roderick. Upper Right: Heartland Award, Daren Redman. Middle left: Persistance Pays, Gabrielle Paquin. Middle Right: Quilt Award Japan, Dana Ziesemer. Bottom Left: McCarthy Award: Valerie Maserr-Flanagan. Bottom Right: Outstanding Machine pieced, Pamela Loewen
After a few months of intensive "Get 'er done" pace getting ready for my show in Colorado, the upcoming show in Houston, and getting a couple pieces done to submit to Quilt National, I have been having a few weeks of "putzing" around. There is a real adrenaline drop off after FedEx sweeps away my work, and I need something different to regain my mojo. So it has been play time!
One of the fun things I do between projects is make earrings (and sometimes other things) from the little left over pieces of fabric and yarns. They are light, affordable, and fun and I have sold many through the McGuffey Art Center Gift shop. Now they are also available in the gift shop of the Visions Art Museum in San Jose, CA. So I have made a bunch of new ones for the upcoming Holiday gift-giving season!
Then it was time for a "remake". Early this year, I was in a show with two other McGuffey artists. We made many collaborative pieces with our three different mediums fiber, clay and wood. You can see the pieces, as they were exhibited here. The large wood and fiber wall piece was separated after the show, but I couldn't "give up" on the fiber part. so I added a few more elements to it to make it a totally fiber piece.
Here is one that I did, not sure it will ever see the light of day as a finished piecee, but I did have fun with all the hand stitching.
Finally, my last dabble, is with upcycling. I walk to the studio everyday, and have noticed a wonderful variety of things in the gutters and sidewalks. Another McGuffey artist, Brielle Duflon has done some fabulous work with trash and inspired me to try. So I am making an ongoing project of recycled work. The backing for each piece is leftover felt or batting from my work, the top "fabric" is various plastic bags. and the found objects are embellished with hand stitching. I hope to make the squares for three months.
O am assembling the rows with embroidery stitches, and have yet to figure out how I will connect the sashing (or what the sashing will be!) between the rows. It is about time to get back to "real" work though!
So it has been about five months since my last feeble effort, but now that fall approaches and life gets a bit slower and more cozy, maybe I can do this blog thing!
The little rascal above has been part of my distraction. This is Kettu, my constant companion for the last two years. For those of you who may have a dog, you realize that those first two years are kind of busy - not unlike the first two years of having a kid! She is wonderful and is with me at my studio, so she will show up in here often I am sure.
Some other things that have kept me busy...
I have been getting ready for a number of shows lately. I had two solo shows and a shared show to send out in the last couple of months.
Jill Jensen, a fellow Virginia fiber artist and print maker had a joint show in Lynchburg . The Academy of Arts is a great venue and our work showed well there.
Then I sent our a couple dozed of my piece to Golden Colorado. Last year I was awarded "Best of Show" in the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum's annual show, and as a consequence I was awarded a solo show there this year. The show was in 3 parts; one wall were pieces from my "Walk in the Park" series, one wall was my "Studio" series, and the third wall was quilts from my "General Gallery".
The museum has two galleries, and in the second gallery was a show of quilts from Russia. (examples below)They were absolutely wonderful and a great counter part to my show. They had all the bright colors and traditional quilting that mine work usually does not, so together, they made a full look at the possibilities of quilting!
While this was happening I also was getting another couple dozen quilts ready to ship to Houston for this fall's Quilt Festival!
They contacted me and asked me to be one of the "Rising Star" artists at this year's show. Of course I said yes. The exciting part, is they didn't want all new quilts. They wanted to make sure that I included a range of quilts that I have done over the years. This means that some of my work that has never been "on the road" before will be in Houston. I have also made a couple of brand spanking new quilts for the show.
This image on the right, is one of the early Excel spreadsheets that I used to try and visualize what the show will look like.
I hope that if you are at the show this November 8-11, that you will stop by and say hello. I would love to talk fiber with you!
One of the great things about having my studio at McGuffey, is the chance to meet so many new people. Our studios are open to the public, so people wander in fairly frequently. I have met many other fiber artist from the area. I have met art supporters, and the curious. Meeting the public at my art shows, was one of my favorite things about doing art fairs, so I welcome the personal contact and chance to talk art with both those who are knowledgeable and those who are seeking knowledge.
And of course there are my fellow artists. The sculpture pictured here is by Jim Respess, my studio neighbor. It is a monumental scale public art sculpture in Charlottesville. Jim is both a philosopher and an artist, and we share a love of mid-afternoon tea with a dash of discussion! Another artist and I are talking about offering 'open studio' or 'fiber funday' classes next fall. Michelle is a mixed media and book artist, with a background in printing, so it could be a fun partnership.
Then there are tours!
Last week I had three groups of third graders come tour my studio. They were wonderful! The first group was so attentive and asked great questions. The second was a challenge; all over the studio but enthusiastic. The third group was right in between. A little girl stopped on her way out and said "will you please teach me?" So I said maybe in a few years, but she could come visit anytime, and she immediately looked at me and said "FRIDAY??!!" I really expected her to pull out a Blackberry to book a time!
One of the things the kids wanted to do is touch... I totally get that...it is why I have textured textiles instead of flat photos. So I told them, to never touch in a gallery or a museum, but it was MY studio and MY rules, so go ahead and touch. They did! And really got into the textures. One little guy wanted to know how many beads were on one piece and, when I said I didn't know, so he spent 10 minutes counting them and announced "153"!!
The following day, the touching got better.
Sarah, a confident and out-going young woman came into the studio Thursday. She was looking for part time work or even to volunteer to help in the studios. This is not remarkable in itself, but she was blind so it was pretty remarkable! She was asking many questions about my work, so I invited her to see/feel for herself. Her fingers traveled from stitch to stitch, and found the frayed parts and the smooth parts. She wanted to know the origins of the textures. As an artist, it was wonderful to see my work appreciated on a totally new level.
What are we missing by instituting a "no touch rule"?
The kids and Sarah really made me think about a feeling I have long held about art. I think we make it too precious. Would Rodin or Michelangelo really never have wanted the surfaces of their work to be enjoyed? Didn't they choose their materials for the feel as much as the look? Would we have even more admiration of Amsel Kieffer if we could experience the sharp and rough with our fingers as well as our eyes. Textile art is, in its very essence tactile, so why can we only touch with white gloves? As an artist, I find the term "visual art" a limiting misnomer. Art might be a far deeper experience if enjoyed with as many sense as required.
Okay, I get it, we are preserving our art for the ages. What if we didn't care about that. What if we feel that a few generations ability to experience 100% was better than eons experiencing only a portion? Should artists be able to tell museums and galleries, that [respectful] "hands on" is okay for their art? Almost every artist I know (including myself!) has been chided by guards for getting our noses too close as we struggle to see brush strokes and textures. I bet if you actually touched a Van Gogh, there would be some powerful vibes still in those strokes!
The pieces I am working on now for my February show are getting pretty intricate. There is stitching, cutting, couching, beading, and more stitching. I have been thrilled with the pieces so far, but yesterday something started to tickle my brain.... When exactly does intricacy turn into obsession? When will I know if have crossed that line? Well after few hours of pondering and I came to a conclusion, or test:
If the ART WORK NEEDS
the element or treatment to complete the composition or statement,
then it is intricacy.
If I HAVE A NEED
to do the treatment or put on another element to support some inner itch,
then it is obsession!
I am not sure I will always be able to tell the difference (after all, that creative itch is awful close to the obsessive itch!) but this does remind me to stop frequently and take serious stock in what is going on as I work.
Working in my studio at the Art Center, has been so good for this type of reflection. There is art work - finished and in progress - everywhere. I stop. I look. I silently critique... and then I am set to critique my own work. There are artists everywhere. I have discussions about color or style, or other "artsy" things that may have been back-shelved in my brain for a while. They get dusted off and reexamined. There is time and space. My work can sit out over night while I ponder. My ideas can be posted on the walls for slow infusion into my brain. My previous work is at hand to pull out and remind me of things that were (or weren't) successful in the past.
Am I making this sound idyllic? Well it is. So far so good. I can already see the effect having the art, the artists, and the time and space is having on my work. I am grateful and excited.
First of all, Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all have much to be personally grateful for, even in this time of world confusion and conflict. May we remember we are each part of a much greater whole, and help each other to find comfort and compassion when ever we can.
But now, about the studio; I have moved in and started working! The space is terrific, and the lighting is absolutely lovely. The above picture is me working in the morning sun. I have a great studio mate in the room next door. Jim make huge sculptures and I think owns every tool know to mankind! He and I share musical tastes, and so the studios are usually rocking away. Here are a couple of more photos of the space.
Before I get rocking on the pieces inspired by the Smokey Mountain Park, I decided to do a few "warm-ups" from some other Charlottesville photos. After Thanksgiving is over and "normal" returns, I will get down to business on the park pieces in anticipation of my February show at the McGuffey. Here are a couple shots of the work in progress:
If you want to see this piece FINISHED!! Click HERE!
After being gone for the month, there was quite a pile of mail waiting my return. Snuggled in the midst of the pile of junk mail were two wonderful publications!
The first was the 'International Quilt festival Quilt Scene' A special annual publication put out to celebrate the work at the Houston International Quilt Festival. (publication available here) There on page 51 was 'Fishy Fishy' and a write up about it. It was the sole representative of Jane Dunnewold's sponsored Digital Alchemy show that was taking place at the Festival. If that wasn't heady enough, a close-up of the fish was used on the title page of the article.
The second publication was SAQA's book "Wild". It is the showcase publication for the Wild Fabrications show of work also debuting at the Houston show. (publication available here) . My piece "Murder of Crows" appears on page 39. The other good news is this exhibit will be traveling to the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wisconsin next year. This is a gem of a museum, and I am thrilled that one of my pieces will be visiting my home state!
Also while I was gone, my Sticks and Stripes quilt won a Juror's award in the Liberty Town Fiber Show in Fredericksburg, VA.
This was the day for my demo at The Oconaluftee Visitor’s Center. It is a long and beautiful drive to get over there, so I decided to leave immediately when I woke up. It was still dark, so I got to see the stars, and find a good place to watch the sunrise…well, me and about a half dozen other photogs! Every outlook had someone camped out waiting for dawn!
The morning was crisp enough that there was a frost during the night, and so a few more trees changed, and the frost edged the leaves. That golden sun that comes right after the dawn, the frost, and the mist rising from the streams, made the world both magical and saturated with color.
I got to ‘Luftee (don’t I sound like an insider!) with plenty of time so I went on a homestead tour with Ranger Michael Smith. He was so full of both knowledge and humor, and made the perfect guide for both the world of the past homesteaders and those who presently work to preserve homestead.
I met a busload of people from the upper Midwest, including a pair of guys who went to school in Phillips and Tripoli, my Dad’s hometown area. They didn’t have to tell me where they were from; the melody of their accent immediately gave them away! The temperature was perfect for sitting in the sun working all day, and I made great progress and had many interesting conversations. I will finish up the stitching on the piece when I get home.
After sitting all day, I decided to take the trail to the Cherokee Museum and back to stretch my legs. That plan didn’t last long.
As I headed down the path that ran alongside the stream, I came upon a herd of Elk moseying through the stream to get to the meadow by the visitor center. This is when I, again, realized I will never be a wildlife photographer! I swiftly backed up about 20 yards and my heart was pounding.
I picked a few huge trees that I could hide behind, and slowly worked my way down to the edge of the stream to watch the parade. I did manage to get it together enough to take a few shots, and then went back to watch from the safe viewing area. They are majestic and the Big-Daddy was HUGE.
I watched them for a long time. The Big-Daddy kept all the women and children herded together. And the four or five younger antlered bulls stood on the sidelines. Occasionally one of the young bulls, would start to approach the herd, but Big-Daddy just put his head down and let out a very convincing stay-away sound, and the young one became far less brazen. A couple of the 'boys' did some mock fighting just to test out there moves.
Finally it was time to head back across the Park to home. I had packed enough sandwiches and apples to get me through the day, so I stopped to eat and watch the sunset on the way home. It was another great day, and I think I was fast asleep by 9:00.
Here is the visual diary of my day!
The other day when I made the “plein air” piece at Cades Cove, I never got the shadows correct. People converged too quickly and too frequently for me to get them down before they changed again! Consequently the whole thing is very flat. I will be doing another one at Oconaluftee tomorrow, but I have an advantage this time. I got to take the earlier pictures of the place at about the time I will be arriving on Tuesday to do my work. So today I “cheated” and used one of those photos to block out the large areas of the composition, so I can just get down to the magic of details tomorrow. I am already seeing a great improvement with this one.
For the rest of the day, I went to explore another area of the park; the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. I didn’t have big expectations for this. The road to it leads out of the middle of Gatlinburg, and with a name like “motor nature trail” ... BUT let that be a lesson; It was fantastic! People, yes, but n ot too many. Fantastic waterfalls to reward you for a long and winding multi-mile hike, several old homesteads where you can wander as you wish, and a tiny old mill by ‘the old mill stream’. The Roaring Fork stream winds with the one-way, one-lane road and the speed limit is 10mph, but usually slower.
The trail was not so steep, but, as you can see in the photos, the roots were amazing and treacherous.
It inspired me to compose the lyrics for a new country western song:
"When you're hiking through life,
and the hand you hold isn't with you,
it is good to have a walking stick"
I hope these pictures just give you a taste of another little piece of paradise!
Nothing to report… just stitched on the “Plein Air” mill.
Then came... Day 20.
It all started when I woke up. I am a morning person, so much so that my eyes open and my feet hit the floor pretty much simultaneously. Friday night, I stayed up later than usual (reading, appropriately, Carolyn Jourdan’s book “Bear in the Backseat”), so I was a bit concerned about getting the early start I wanted in the studio Saturday, but not enough to set an alarm.
When I woke up I looked at my watch, and read 8:13. That was about an hour later than I had planned, so I jumped out of bed, washed up, got dressed, and sat down for a piece of toast and tea. Then I looked at the clock radio. It said 3:03. I figured the power had gone off, so I decided to reset it. When I looked at my watch, I realized it REALLY WAS 3:03AM. Evidently 8:13 and 2:40, look a lot alike when you can’t tell the big hand from the little one.
So I went back to bed with my clothes on to catch another couple hours!
Once awake for good, I spent the day having fun with leaves. I am doing a demo at Sugarland Visitors Center Sunday, and there are not any fun old buildings to model for me, so I thought I would try to come up with an interactive idea. I had brought a bunch of fabric paints, but hadn’t got around to using them yet. I gathered some leaves brushed on the paint, and printed it onto fabric. Fun times! I decided to whip up a piece using the idea, and also cut up about 50 small pieces of fabric for the public to try it. So I am set for Day 21 activities.
Then came Jill’s taxi service for the day.
On the way home I noticed two Appalachian Trail through-hikers thumbing a ride from town back to the trail. The mom in me couldn’t resist, and without a TV, internet or even good radio reception, I could use the entertainment! They said they had been waiting over 45 minutes for someone to stop. A fact I found astounding considering the weekend park traffic. They had been hiking north to south (not the usual direction they informed me) since June, and were looking to finish the end of this month. The usual chit chat ensued for the next 15 miles as we drove to the trailhead, during which one of the guys said he was from Massachusetts. I told him my daughter-in-law was also from there. Long story short, it turns out they are both from the same small town in Western Mass, and he had actually worked in her parent’s coffee shop several years ago! Small world.
After I dropped them off and turned around to head back the 15 miles to ‘home’ I noticed the tourists were now bumper to bumper and crawling along. Knowing well my shortcomings, I stopped at the first turn-off that offered facilities I could use, so I could then sit in traffic in comfort.
As I waited to rejoin the parade, I noticed two young women crawling around their car, and trying every door. So they looked up, spotted me, and came and tapped on my window.
They had lost their keys while hiking. Well this is a problem our family is intimately familiar with, so I said “get in”. There is no phone service up there, and the Visitor Centers were now closed, so, unless a Ranger happened along, we figured I would take them into Gatlinburg so they could get help or AAA. Once in the car, one of them told me that her mom had told her that if she was ever in trouble to look for a mom-like person to help them. I guess I fit the bill. About half way down the mountain and after searching several times, the keys showed up in the bottom of a backpack. So we turned around and I saw them safely back to their car.
It was now dusk and EVERYONE was leaving the park, so I decided to enjoy the evening at the top. I took some pictures of yet another sunset, a pic of the way the streams turn gold at dusk, and looked for a good place to shoot a picture of the moon. Found it. Click on them to see pictures larger.
Day 17 and 18
On Wednesday, Jon and I decided to explore an area of the park I had not yet seen; Oconaluftee. It is the spot I will be working on site for most of the day next Tuesday, so I wanted to go and check it out in advance.
It was a lovely drive with short walks to a couple of streams, great vistas and turning trees along the way. It is up and over the mountain, so also a lot of turning roads!
The site is a historic settlers’ homestead complete with working garden, and piggies. The buildings are fascinating; the ingenuity to construct and survive is reflected in the workmanship and the creativity. There are barns and outbuildings homes and (on the way there) a turbine grist mill that is still working. And I never tire of the split rail zig zag fences so prevalent here. I am looking forward to going back on next Tuesday for a little “Plein Air” quilting! Checck out these photos of the place, and don't miss the kissing pigs!
Thursday, Day 18, was a “work day” for me! I donned my official volunteer hat and park shirt, and gathered my materials and headed to Cade Cove. We left early in hopes of avoiding the crowds, but I am not sure that is ever possible! The word is out that the best viewing of wildlife (Other than the tourist on the streets of Gatlinburg) is early AM at Cades Cove, so there they were – both the visitors and the wildlife.
Driving in was a slow stroll in your car, with total stoppage when an animal was sighted. Even with all the warnings, people jumped out of their cars and ran to take pics of the mama bear and her cubs. It was a fantastic sight though. The dew was heavy and the fog was light, and the morning light glowed on the fields and through the trees. I am so glad people could enjoy this beauty.
Once we arrived at the visitor center, where another crowd was gathered to watch an elk graze behind the restrooms, I found the park personnel who would help me know the ropes for my gig. They were a welcoming and warm group, and had a sign already for me! I found a great bench to set up my materials, a fence on which to hang examples of my work, and a lovely view of the water powered grist mill. Like Oconaluftee, Cades Cove is also a setting showing how the early settlers of the area lived and worked. While I worked, Jon tried (very successfully) his hand at photography – both of me doing my thing and of the site.
According to park personnel it was a very busy day, and I had many people who came to chat with me, ask questions about my art and the park’s artist in residency program, and tell me about their art adventures. My favorite quote of the day, “next to the bear I saw this morning, you are my favorite part of the park!”
Click on the below pictures to see them larger.
The weather was perfect, the people all pleasant, and a great experience. The artwork I did was a bit more traditional and unlike my usual, but it was fun, and it did the job of linking art to the park setting and providing interest and information for the crowd. I did a “Plein Air” depiction of the mill using small bits and pieces of fabrics, temporarily held down with glue. Then I took it back to the studio to add the stitching, texture and more details. Here is the result. Left; before stitching - done on site. Middle; after stitching. Right; finished.
NOTE: to see all posts from my Smoky Mountain Adventure, click on the category “Locale:Smoky Mountain Residency” on the right
Day 4 and 5
The rain continues to pour, so no silly hiking distractions to take me away from the studio! Started the day with that angst that is brought on by the [always happens] "this is crap" phase that every piece must go through just before you turn the bend! Compound this with the rain, missing home a smidgen and my initial adrenaline having been used up, and it took a while to find the groove. But thanks to cranking up some Bette Midler, Willie Nelson and Edvard Grieg, soon I was on a roll.
I got stitching well under way on the Green Lichen one I started the other day, and got two others laid out and auditioning for whether they will get a part or not. I noticed a lot of well soaked small branches outside my studio door, so inspired by the basket makers I saw the other day, I did a little weaving with them and some paper yarns. I think this will now be joined by some photos and lots of stitching!
I also pounded some leaves to see about using those images. Didn't get them quite right, but all that pounding certainly was a mood enhanced!!
Here are some of the works in progress... I will keep you posted on their progress!
Today I got to move into a studio on the Arrowmont Campus. What a joy and privilege. Arrowmont School for Arts and Crafts was founded originally as a general school, and later, morphed into what it is today.
It hold advanced level workshops for all types of craft: wood turning, textiles, ceramics, etc. You feel the energy just walking the grounds. There are several Artist-in Residences here - all staying for about eleven months, then there is the rotating calendar of classes that draw artists and instructors from around the world. Last month was the first month they provided a studio for the GSMNP arts, so my timing was pretty perfect!
I got the place all settled yesterday, and a piece cut and ready to sew. Today the gods have provided a day of heavy rain, so I will not even be tempted to go sight seeing instead of working, so enough said... I am off to work while you take a look here at the grounds.
I will be leaving Monday morning for the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I will be in an apartment in the park for the month as the Artist-in-Residence. The checklist is almost complete, and the art supply and fabric pile is larger than either the clothes or food piles, so I think I have my priorities right.
Some "plein air" landscape quilting is in the plans - putting down the fabrics on site and stitching later.
I have packed all kids of "toys"; dyes, screen print, paints, fabric crayons, etc etc. Because my real hope is to play, play, play, and experiment! I will also be trying some natural dying with a workshop that will be in the area.
The fall color should be in its full glory while I am there, so inspiration should abound for both photos and fiber.
Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts is just a mile down the road from where I will be living. It happens that the Surface Design conference is there while I am in the park, so I will also be attending that as well as the Natural Dying Workshop with Catharine Ellis. More inspiration I am sure!
I am so lucky to have this experience, and I will be sharing it with you here!
I am so thrilled to have four of my recent art quilts in the upcoming Houston International Quilt Festival October 29 - November 2, 2015.
While the subject matter of the quilts are quite different they all started with one or more of my original photographs custom printed on fabric. It is my goal to make sure at the end, it is not just an embellished photo, but instead the photo and the stitching are so completely integrated that neither would be complete without the other.
I was hoping to get to Houston, but will be just ending a month as an artist-in-residence in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, so will head home instead! But if you are there, I would love to hear what you thought of the show, so please let me know through my Facebook pages (jill2day, or jillkerttulaphoto), or here!
Below is a gallery of the quilts that will be there and the names of the shows they will be in. Please click on them to see them in full crop and detail.
As I said in and earlier post, my photos are my sketchbook. They train my eye, inspire me, and are just plain fun! But I really like it when one (or more) inspire me to stitch, cut, bead, add, subtract, or whatever to them so that they may gain the textures that fiber art can bring to them. So here are a few ways that I use my photos in my fiber art.
As whole cloth ...
Sometimes the photo is printed to become the basis for a whole cloth quilt. I loved the composition of this photo and didn't want to change a thing about that, but I wanted to add the grit and texture of a sidewalk with embellishments that included dryer lint, leaves, and found objects, as well as yards and yards of stitching. This is "Where the Sidewalk Starts"
As the inspired beginning...
Again, I really likes the photo, but not so much the crop, so I "enlarged it" piecing other fabrics to the photo. I also let the photo inspire the directional flow of the stitches, and the type of embellishments that I would include.
This finish quilt "The Blue Brush" includes about seven different photos, some collaged within the initial fabric printing, and others added later. The subject matter was far less important than the colors and textures of the photos. Most importantly, the photos had to integrate with the stitching, added fabrics and each other to form a cohesive composition.
Here are three different "auditions" for placement prior to sewing the collage together...
If you are really into history, click here for blog posts prior to 2014 !