Category Archives: Studio Chat

Relfections on my process of making art.

Tools: Invest in your Art!

When I began exploring art quilting I was very excited to get going. I had good sewing machine (a Pfaff) and a large table with plenty of surface to support my fabric. It was an adequate set up for my skill level. As I got better I started looking at equipment I would need to “up my game”. While walking through a quilt show I starting playing with a long arm frame that would work with my home machine. It seemed so easy…..

What a deal. I bought the floor model at a  great discount, the dealer dropped in off at my house and a month later his shop closed without notice. In the end I sold that frame for half what I bought it for and learned a valuable lesson. Tools are an investment in your artistic practice.  

The next time I invested in a sewing machine I did my homework. Several members of my critique group used the  Bernina I ended up purchasing. My local shop where I bought my first “real” sewing machine (a Pfaff) allowed a generous trade price, sold me a floor model and was always there when I was learning how to work with my new machine. .

When I bought my large Koala table after I retired, I was already skilled and took advantage of having a large professional table that allowed me to move my heavily painted material on a smooth surface. My free motion quilting improved immensely after by having a great machine with a great set up and spending time working on my skills.  

Recently it became clear the need for a larger inventory. I needed to invest in a tool that will increase my productivity and allow me to expand my skills. After much thought, I started looking at long arm and mid arm quilting machines.

A long arm sewing machine is used to sew a quilt top, batting and back together using a frame that is usually able to accommodate a twin, queen or king size quilt. The cost for this large beast can be prohibitive unless you are using the machine to quilt for other people.

A mid arm machine takes up less space and usually has a table instead of a frame. The mid arm is a machine midway between a long arm and a regular sewing machine. The mid arm has a large throat space, a big bobbin and the ability to change the bobbin without taking your quilt off the machine.

Both machines are made to exclusively to quilt. They are the premiere tool for a free motion quilter.  I started by window shopping at my local quilt guild’s biennial show. On the sales floor there were a few vendors showing machines. I stopped at each booth, collected their promotional material, watched them demonstrate on the machine, tried the machine myself, took measurements and asked the same five questions.

  1. How much is this machine?
  2. Where would I get this machine serviced?
  3. Will this machine be delivered?
  4. Does this machine work easily with a variety of thread?
  5. Is there a local quilter who is a customer that I can talk to?

After a couple of months of research  I bought the “Sweet 16” made by the Handi Quilter. Here are the reasons why:

  1. A reasonable price ($6000) with the bonus of no interest financing over 48 months.
  2. The machine is made in Utah and my local shop offers good dependable service and is happy to have you stop in for troubleshooting.
  3. The machine was delivered to my door for $20 and the setup took 30 minutes.
  4. Before I made my final decision, I went to the shop with 6 different spools of thread made by different manufactures, weights and material. Although the shop recommended using Superior Threads  (our local manufacturer) because of their high quality, the machine easily handled any thread with an easy adjustment to the tension.
  5. Most importantly I walked over to a friend and fellow art quilter in my neighborhood and played on her machine. She was honest about problems she has, but also provided some easy solutions.

I have moved from being a weekend artist to working in my studio full time. This commitment has paid off. I am now a Juried Artist Member of SAQA. Currently I have work in nine different venues. Some of my work will be travelling for the next two or three years. Investing now is going to pay off in my ability to get my work out to a larger audience.

 

Until next time…….

Margaret

 

You can see my work…….

 

Under The Western Sun

Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Golden CO

April 27 – July 25 2017

 The Macey Center Socorro, NM 

July 24 to September 11.

H2Oh!

National Quilt Museum, Paducah Kentucky

June – September 2017

Sacred Threads

Herndon VA

July 7 – 23 2017 and Traveling throughout the country!

Pathfinders

Southern Utah Museum of Art

Cedar City Utah

June 30 – August 26 2017

The View

St. George Museum of Art

St. George Utah

April 28 – August 16 2017

Untethered Thread

Poway Center for the Arts

Poway, CA

June 1 – June 24, 2017

35th Annual New Legacies

Lincoln Center

Ft. Collins, CO

July 5 – August 26

Interpretations: Conversations

Visions Art Museum

San Diego, CA

October 21 2017 – January 7 2018

 

My New Best Friend the”Bullet Journal”

It all began with mixed media artist called Julie Fei-Fan Balzer.

 Julie has a great podcast called “Adventures in Arting”. Her Mom is her sidekick in this venture. Together they interview people in the mixed media girl or they chat about Julie’s latest adventure. They are a super engaging team.


In a recent episode Julie introduced me to a “bullet journal”.  
A bullet journal is popular with millennials. It is used to track your business life, academic pursuits, your daily activity and long term goals. It’s a catch all for a busy life.

The idea sounded interesting so I checked out some YouTube videos and now I am hooked!

My Cover.

 

After listening to the podcast and watching a couple of videos; I pulled out a sketchbook from my unused pile. (I have gotten tons of sample sketchbooks over the years at art education conferences)  

The sketchbook I selected  was a spiral bound book filled with all the sample papers produced by a particular vendor. It included everything from a heavy watercolor paper to vellum.  A variety of papers would turn out to help me make unique pages. The journal is small enough to put in a purse if need be but right now I keep it in my studio.


Creating a cute cover

First I gessoed over the vendor’s image and logo. Next, I painted, colored, doodled and stamped until I had a good design. Since I used plenty of dots and circles; I named it my “Dot Journal”.  (You can add a title to the cover, decoupage,use stickers or just leave it blank and start organizing.)   

Inside my journal is “idea”storage, inventory tracker, shows to enter lists, balance sheets,note keepers, checklists, etc….

It’s my all around life saver.

Look at the things I kept track of when I started. the indexing is growing!

 Begin by counting the number of pages (mine is a little more than 40). The first pages are the index. (I used two pages) Write down page numbers in a column. Draw a line for each number to fill in the page title. Next print page. numbers neatly in the upper outside corner of each page.

 I started by adding a few pages I knew I would need: inventory, calls for entry , dates to mail accepted work and balance sheet. Leaving a number of pages between titles helped me to allow for expansions if needed. All the titles began on odd numbered pages so would at minimum have the front and back page.


*I couldn’t resist getting out a variety of stamps and pens to give individual pages a little visual pop.

Page with stamps and homemade fabric tab.


(Using small scraps of material for tabs turned out to be a great idea.)


 As I started using the journal I began to understand what a great resource this journal would become.

My number of pages increased rapidly . It seemed like everyday I was adding a new page and updating existing pages. For example; I added a page called thread notes after I had a bad hour with thread bunnies on the back of my quilt. After figuring out which needle, tension, bobbin thread, etc… Now I use this page all the time. I have less issues with machine which makes me more productive.

 

This is a page that really helps when I forget stuff like what tension to use.


I have a section of pages for future projects.

This helps when I am looking through calls for entry. I can match a call with a project that already interests me. I also keep track of entry fees and awards. Having one place where I see what quilts are in a show, heading out to a show and what quilts are just sitting around helps me focus my energy on projects that will be shared with a larger community and steers me away from making a project for a call that does not speak to me as an artist. 


 I have high hopes that this idea will spread with art quilters.


 

Until next time….
Margaret


You can see my work……. 
Turmoil
International Quilt Festival – Chicago, Illinois: April 2017 

Under The Western Sun
Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Golden CO
April 27 – July 25 2017

H2Oh!
National Quilt Museum, Paducah Kentucky
June – September 2017

Sacred Threads
Herndon VA
 July 7 – 23 2017 and Traveling through out the country!

Pathfinders
Southern Utah Museum of Art
Cedar City Utah 
June 30 – August 26 2017

The View
St. George Museum of Art
St. George Utah
April 28 – August 16 2017

Untethered Thread
Poway Center for the Arts
Poway, CA
June 1 – June 24, 2017

35th Annual New Legacies
Lincoln Center 
Ft. Collins, CO 
July 5 – August 26

Interpretations: Conversations
Visions Art Museum
San Diego, CA
October 21 2017 – January 7 2018

 

Principles of Design for the Art Quilter


The principles of design tell the artist how the elements of design relate to each other. Through the understanding of the principles, the artist is able to evaluate a composition. Principles help solve problems!


This poster hung in my classroom and in almost every other art teachers classroom in my district. Along with the elements of design, the principles of design are the common language of art. In my last post I described the elements of design:

Elements are words used to describe the “parts” of work of art.

I told my students to think about an element like the windows, tires  or doors on a car. The principles describe the car itself. A sports car,big truck or a family van. It is important for the artist to take the time look and evaluate how the elements of design work together to create the desired outcome. 


And now for the story of “Tom” and “Mimi”

“Tom” is a quilt that I made a couple of years ago. It is going to  be in a show called “Under the Western Sun” at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in late April. The show will travel to New Mexico and Utah. It has also been on display at the Lincoln Center Gallery in Colorado in an international show of art quilts called “New Legacies”.

This quilt was made after “Tom”. It is a portrait of Tom’s wife Mimi. It has not gotten into any shows.Using the principles of design, I can identify the problem with Mimi. 

Note: Principle of design is in bold.

Both compositions use a similar color scheme which creates a strong contrast between the warm and cool colors. The lines created by the quilting and small bits of cloth create interesting patterns and visual rhythm.  So where’s the problem? They look similar, but Mimi doesn’t cut the mustard. 

The emphasis is off center in portrait of “Tom” making  it a more pleasing composition than “Mimi”. Look carefully at the curved lines of quilting. These serve as a visual pathway leading to a focal point. Compare this to the portrait of Mimi where the lines of quilting do not provide a clear visual pathway. The point of emphasis is poorly placed in the center. 

Balance a important role in a successful composition.  I think that balance alone is why Mimi doesn’t work. Mimi is a symmetrical composition. The visual balance is even. The figure and the background have the same visual weight. There is an even divide of space between the background to the left and right of the figure. Even  the figure does not take up enough space. 

In Tom’s portrait the figure takes up at least two thirds of the space.  It dominates the composition. If I had made in a portrait orientation and cropped out more of the background I would have much better portrait of Mimi.

If it isn’t working, try using the principles of design
to identify the problem.


Until next time….
Margaret


You can see my work……. 
Turmoil
International Quilt Festival – Chicago, Illinois: April 2017 

Under The Western Sun
Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Golden CO
April 27 – July 25 2017

H2Oh!
National Quilt Museum, Paducah Kentucky
June – September 2017

Sacred Threads
Herndon VA
 July 7 – 23 2017 and Traveling through out the country!

Pathfinders
Southern Utah Museum of Art
Cedar City Utah 
June 30 – August 26 2017

The View
St. George Museum of Art
St. George Utah
April 28 – August 16 2017

Untethered Thread
Poway Center for the Arts
Poway, CA
June 1 – June 24, 2017

Interpretations: Conversations
Visions Art Museum
San Diego, CA
October 21 2017 – January 7 2018

 

Word of the Year: Observation

Observation is the my word of the year.

 

Last  year I found myself taking action without thinking. We all have done it, said “Yes” before thinking about how much time you are willing to give. Raising a hand or offering to help before considering how much energy this will take.  This is true whether it’s committing to entering (X) number of shows or showing up to volunteer (X) number of hours.  

My time and energy are my most valuable assets and I need to guard them. This year I am spending more time in observing before acting.  


Observation is critical to my studio practice.  In every studio session I take frequent breaks to look at my work in progress on my design wall. More often than not, I am having internal argument.  “This composition or color scheme is not working but I don’t know how to fix it.”  Artists need other artists to evaluate problems with a set of fresh eyes. It is essential for creative progress. 

My critique group  in Colorado helped me move from experimentation to competence in art quilting.  Luckily I now have an opportunity to start a critique group in my new community.   

After I moved here to Saint George, I found out there were two people within walking distance of my home who were art quilters. . Both are creative spirits, but have an aesthetic that is different than mine. We visited each other’s studios.  They had so much to offer me and couldn’t wait to get together again.

 At my local guild there was definite openness  to experimentation that is sometimes missing in a traditional guild. After attending a three day retreat I met other kindred spirits interested in meeting to provide each other feedback.  I came home reassured I will be a member of a functioning critique group in the near future. 

If you are thinking about forming a critique group take a look at a wonderful resource written by Marjorie Jannotta on the SAQA regional blog for Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.  Here’s little taste from Marjorie’s guide.

“Jump Start Guide to Successful Quilt/Fiber Art Critique Groups”
by Marjorie Jannotta 
This handout will help you plan and launch an art critique group. (For simplicity I will refer to contemporary quilts, mixed media works with stitch, and fiber art as “art.”)
Critique groups can serve several purposes that a larger, formal quilt guild or association cannot. Critique groups can:
• Provide a “nest” or “incubator” for those wanting to explore art ideas, learn skills informally, and try out new approaches in a supportive climate.
• Give each person a chance to sharpen skills in examining, analyzing, and understanding the work of others.
• Let participants receive specific viewpoints about artworks before, during, and after they are made.
• Create a learning climate that creates affiliation and friendship among participants.
• Be a platform for exhibits, community outreach, teaching, and contributing to associations and other groups.
• Avoid formal bureaucracies that take time away from the art itself.


Until next time…
Margaret


You can see my work……. 
Turmoil
International Quilt Festival – Chicago, Illinois: April 2017 

Under The Western Sun
Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Golden CO
April 27 – July 25 2017

H2Oh!
National Quilt Museum, Paducah Kentucky
June – September 2017

“Quilting Arts” February /March 2017,Turmoil (page 21-27)
“Quilting Arts” June/July 2016 Stories of Migration (page 11 -18)

 

 

Thread is my colored pencil


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Thread is the colored pencil of the art quilt.


b04fd156696347abd1f1cb85bf3bd6a7 Traditional artist training for artists from elementary school through college includes developing an artist’s ability to manipulate color and line. This tool is used to teach these two important of elements of design.

Many art quilters are piecers like art quilter extraordinaire Maria Shell who fully embrace using the traditional form of quilting by putting cloth shapes together to form a pattern. This style of art quilting emphasizes two other elements: color and shape.

“I am a piecer also known as a bitmaker. I am also an obsessive compulsive quilter. Might as well claim it.”
Maria Shell blog post “All my Life” 08/06/1


thread-paintings-zavaglia I am not a traditional quilter. My quilts are whole cloth. I add small bits of fabric on top of the whole cloth to create textures and increase a sense of visual space. I use color by painting the cloth with various wet media. When I begin to stitch I use thread just as I would a colored pencil.

In the art quilt world some would call this thread painting like this portrait by Cayce Zavaglia.  This artists uses thread across the entire surface of the image. The style is realistic. It mimics an oil painting. My friend Lea McComas has a wonderful book which outlines the technique. Check it out, if you want to know more.

Thread Painted Portraits you can buy this book at http://www.leamccomas.com/store/

Thread Painted Portraits

You can buy this book at
http://www.leamccomas.com/store/


I use thread to scribble, to add movement, to change the color scheme, to add value and as tool to draw using a variety of lines over the surface. I have two  invaluable tools.  The most important tool is a high quality sewing machine. My Bernina has a huge work area when stitching . It also has a variety of decorative stitches and an extra large bobbin. It is the tool that allows me a wide variety lines made with thread.

Stitch detail

Stitch detail

The second tool is my pallette of thread. I have over 100 spools of thread. . Learning to use the right thread and to use a variety of thread is the key to making a real visual impact. Some thread is fine for a straight stitch but gives me headaches when I free motion. I love variegated thread but have come to appreciate the subtle qualities of grey values. superior-threads-office

I am lucky to live in close proximity to Superior Threads. It has a “huge” (say it Bernie Sanders would) warehouse in St. George Utah where I can wander through a maze of thread. The first purchase I made was a thread chart. This helps me find not only the color I am looking for, but allows me to check off the colors I already have in my stash.

Sewline-Colour-Chart_png_1200x1200_q85 Every thread line has a color chart.

“Even if you are buying thread online, order the color chart first.”

I often take a photo of the selection of a single color. For example I was working on a portrait and I was missing a light value between two beiges and a dark value between two greys. Seeing the spools in a row helps identify what I am looking for.

When I shopping at Superior I also take a phone shot of the top of the spools which shows the the color number. This way I can make sure I am not buying a duplicate or a color too close to the value I already own.

WarehouseThreads images

I have to give a shout out the the staff at Superior, they are always nice and go the extra mile to help answer a question of find a solution to a problem.

Until next time……
Margaret