Category Archives: Studio Chat

Relfections on my process of making art.

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

Oops! Handling failure….

There is a difference between a mistake and a failure

failure-copy


 

I ruined a quilt I spent thirty hours on!

H2Oh! in progress

H2Oh! in progress

I had worked very hard on a potential entry in the SAQA exhibit H2oh! The last step in my process is covering the surface with a matt varnish with UV protection. My rational has been to seal the surface to help protect it from handling the quilt, fading and to ensure any lose threads cannot be pulled.

 

I have always used the same water based product. It came in a money saving gallon tub. The tub would last a year.  In this one case the entire surface of the quilt looked cloudly after it dried.  Panic set in.  I went to my local art supply store to consult with the manager. He said the cause could have been the product getting too hot, being over mixed, too thick, inconsistent drying during the heat spell, etc…  In the future he suggested I use a very thin spray varnish to avoid any potentional clouding.

There was no turning back. H2oh! went into the garbage as a total failure.


“A failure by my definition is a mistake that cannot be undone.”


One of my options after closing the lid of the trash can would have been to reorder my origonal design from my “Spoonflower” account. Having completed the project once and keeping a photographic record of my progress; I could easily duplicate this project. It would be the quick path. Instead, I thought of the failure as a message from my art angels to step back and reflect. Maybe my failure was ment to be. 

When I finished my JAM portfolio in the early spring, I submitted a portfolio of 7 art quilts. I believed I was creating two distinct series of portraits. One was portraits of spirtual practices like mediation and the other group were portraits investigating my family.

My mentor suggested that I needed to stop seeing my work in seperate catagores. The work I was making should be an extention in large body of work. With each new quilt I creating for myself new challenges and addressing problems with previous work.  Don’t repeat, expand!

A portrait of meditation.

A portrait of meditation.

A portrait of my Grandfather

A portrait of my Grandfather

 

 

_

 

 

 


Was the failed work an  authentic extention of my previous work?

I responded to the “H2oh!”  theme by making a portrait of a process of meditating to the sound of water. When I meditate, I often just put on the sound of water a let my mind quiet. This would be another portrait of of a spiritual practice but was I creating new challenge?  Was I moving forward creativily or resting on established formula?

On balance, I did spend a great of time on this project  improving technically but very little time on anything else. Recently, I have made an effort to use thread as a stonger design element. I have started collecting a large number of threads that allow me to use thread much like I would use colored pencils.  From that limited perspective, I was challenging myself.  Thread

 Looking at any project technically is not enough. An artist needs to express something deeper. So I chose to move to another project. This time it is self portrait. The self portrait has so much potential both technically and thematically as an exploration of who I am in the context of where I came from.

(I have not abandoned working on entry for H2oh! I have an abstract portrait for sound of water and photo of my father in law as an ocean life guard.) 

Portrait in progress. From a photograph of me in 1976

Portrait in progress. From a photograph of me in 1976

 

Until the Next Time
Margaret

You can find my work at:
Textile Museum at George Washington University
"Diaspora: Stories of Migration"
through September 4th

New Legacies
Lincoln Center 
Ft. Collins, CO
July 5th - September 3rd

SAQA Benefit Auction
http://www.saqa.com/memberArt.php?ID=1186
Bidding starts September 16th

Turmoil
International Quilt Festival – Houston, TX: October 2016    
International Quilt Festival – Chicago, Illinois: April 2017 

SAQA - Portfolio 21 
Type: SAQA Portfolio 
Price: $29.95

Mesquite Local News
Article "A splash of Color"
Featured Art Quilt "Namaste"