Artists like Authors, Need a “Reader”: The Value of Trusted Feedback

Have a best friend…..

who you trust to tell you the truth?


I have a best friend who will tell me the unvarnished truth. It’s cheaper than therapy. I am a better person because she is the person helping me keep moving in the right direction in my personal life.

 The idea that an artist works in isolation and without feedback is a myth. Artists need friends working in the art world.  Critique groups, guilds and professional organizations have been keys to my success.  These groups are where I can connect with people who are important to my art life .  In my new community I was lucky to find a few people who, like a best friend;  give me unvarnished feedback. 


Most successful authors have a person who they call a “reader”: Someone who reads the first draft of novel and provides feedback. Often this person is a spouse or best friend who is not writer. They have important qualities.

Stephen King’s wife is his reader.

  • First, this reader doesn’t have “skin in the game” like an editor or agent looking down the road at sales.
  • Second they are familiar with a body of work not just a single manuscript. Overtime the reader has seen many books in the early stages.
  •  Finally  they are trusted. Trust is the most important quality.  It is developed overtime and is not easily abandoned or replaced. A reader has complete trust  in the author’s commitment to the artistic process. The author trusts the reader to provide thoughtful and productive feedback. 

Like an author, an artist needs someone to look at work in progress. I often ask my husband to step into my studio and give me his thoughts. Lucky for me, John is able to point out an issue with a composition quickly. (The downside is he is not inclined to spend anytime explaining explaining his thought process.)  That’s why I have a critique group. Within that group there are individuals who give me valued unvarnished feedback. 


One of my struggles when I moved away from Colorado was finding my art “tribe”.   In the small town of Mesquite, I joined the local gallery and connected with a couple of people, but the community did not have the wealth of fiber artists I had been accustomed to in Colorado.

When I joined a quilt guild in nearby St. George I was introduced to many members who were art quilters.  By the time we moved to St. George I knew a small group of art quilters that wanted to participate in a critique group. 

After meeting over several months our little group has begun to jell. Seeing each other’s work over time and various stages of development has opened the door to becoming each other’s readers. We trust each other.  I am taking full advantage of this gift. Now I would not consider working on a project without sharing my progress with my critique group.  

Before I finished this recent quilt called “The Narrows” one of my critique group members pointed out an obvious problem. This is much more successful thanks to her.

Since our group meets once a month, I take advantage of using facebook and other social media. I post images and occasionally I ask for feedback. This is such a time saver. When I look at a project over many hours I get blind to some very obvious issues. Like many artists I use my camera to help me identify problems with composition, but this is not foolproof.  When I was more isolated in Mesquite, I would close my studio door and do other things for a couple of days until I could look with a fresh set of eyes. 


Now I can put a quilt up on facebook and ask for feedback.  Within hours I have that trusted “suggestion” that only certain people can give. Lucky me!


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 
Flint Festival of Quilts, Flint MI – September 2017
HeART Gallery, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Toledo, OH – October 18-30, 2017
Grace Episcopal Church, Gainesville GA – November 1 – December 15, 2017
Voice of the Spirit Gallery, West Raleigh Presbyterian Church, Raleigh, NC -January – February, 2018
Southeastern Quilt & Textile Museum, Carrollton GA – March-June, 2018
Good Shepard Episcopal Church, Hayesville NC – July, 2018
The Rectory Cultural Arts Center, Norcross, GA – August, 2018
Virginia Quilt Museum, Harrisonburg VA – September-December, 2018
Best of the Valley Quilt Show, Lindsay, CA – April, 2019
A World of Quilts , Danbury, CT – May 2019

Turmoil
Festival of Quilts
Birmingham, United Kingdom
August 10, 2017 – August 13, 2017

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

 

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

 

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

 

Just Can’t Quilt While the Sun Shines

It is hard for me to get studio work done when Springs arrives.

Snow Canyon Park is 12 minutes from my house. 

Now that I am in Southern Utah with a new home and a garden to plant, landscaping to improve, trees to trim  and a lawn to maintain spring takes me outside.


I really had a lull in my studio production that I only became panicked about when all my quilts  were out in shows or committed to shows. “How did this happen?”

As it turns out I was working on other tasks like…….
Gardening.
Being “Nana” to a perfect 1 year old who lives 4 hours away.
Taking a Mediterranean cruise.
Working on functional quilt projects.
Investing time for my critique group.
Working on my computer skills.
Hiking.


It all adds up to time away from production. …..Or does it?


Actually I am further ahead than I would have been if I stuck to slugging away in my studio. During this time I have been gathering ideas, collecting images and working on creating visually challenging compositions with the help of digital media.

In early March my husband and worked hard on getting our yard in shape. We trimmed bushes and trees that had been ignored for years. We hired a contractor to extend our garden wall. I put in a simple patio of red pavers, added new garden beds and planted pots.

During the process I discovered a great app that modifies images taken  by my iPhone. It’s called PicsArt. It can do typical edits like cropping the image , adjusting the contrast, or color. What is special about this app is the filters that completely transform a picture. It’s great fun to play with a phone photo while taking a short break from another project.

                                                   My phone is an “art tool”  

This spring I really explored the camera and the basic editor by forming a habit of collecting and editing images daily. Now this is an integral part of my artistic practice . I delete   more pictures than I take because I review and edit my saved images working to improve the quality of each composition.

 

 

A man walking near a Cathedral in Malta.

My husband and I went on a Mediterranean cruise in late April. Like all tourists I took lots of pictures but I also kept the habit of selecting and editing photos at the end of the day. During the excursions I discovered the value of a selfie stick as a very functional tripod. I began looking for people and places that would be more than documentation of a place. 

When I came home  and settled into a work routine I discovered a new line of inquiry. My current portfolio has been focused on using family portraits because they have an immediate subtext. As I look at my current file of potential projects I am included some of my daily photos.           

The tiny tourist on a swing in Sorrentino.

What binds this work together is my fascination with a story. There is a photo taken of me and our family dog Jimmy. It is the morning before we took in for his last visit to the vet. As you can see I manipulated the image but the story behind the project is my primary source of inspiration.

My last day with Jimmy

 

Now I have a very large selection projects. Some are  vintage family photos, others are pictures taken of people that I met on my travels and some are photos documenting my life. I am working harder on using digital software to push my own limits. 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Simple, No Hand Sewing, Hanging Sleeve.

Traditional quilt shows use a rod and pole display system.

                                  

The sleeve for this hanging system is very important to making a pleasing display. A sleeve is a fabric tube sewn on the completed quilt by hand. A sleeve is 4 inches wide placed an inch from the top and sides. The sleeve has enough “give” so the quilt hangs flat.

Art Quilter’s”  use a sleeve with a wood or plexiglass slat. 

The slat has holes at the end that can be wired and hung on any gallery wall. Unlike art in a frame and under glass, art quilts are economical to ship and easily stored. This is an incentive for galleries and museums to display our work. (Check out this SAQA resource about hanging quilts in a traditional gallery) 


I didn’t really understand the importance of the sleeve when I first began making art quilts. For a time I backed my quilts with canvas or other materials. My sleeve was sewn flat to the backing. This works well if you are using small nails at the end of the sleeve, but is a poor choice for any rod system.

After some experimentation, I found a simple way to make a sleeve that does not require hand sewing and can be easily removed.

I use Oly*fun.
It’s a poly fabric used for crafting. Although it comes in many colors, I use black exclusively. You can buy it online or at Walmart or Joannes in 10 yard bolts. It is 60″ wide.
The fabric is super light and cheap.

                                                       

                             (Be forewarned: you cannot iron this stuff!)


Here’s my process

  1. Set out a rotary cutter, white marking pencil and ruler. Measure the width of the quilt. Cut a 4.5  inch strip.  Cut a 6 inch strip. Roll up extra and keep these on hand for the next project. 
  2. Lay the 6” piece over the top edge of your quilt . (I don’t use a ruler!) Leave an inch on the outer edge. Mark with white pencil and trim to size. Make a 1” line with your with  pencil on all for sides of your 6” piece. It will look like a frame. 
     

 

3.Place the 4.5 inch piece so it lines up with the top 1 inch line – not top of the 6″ strip.  Mark and trim this piece so it fits between the side border lines. Pin this piece so it lines up with the top border and sew a quarter inch seam.Line up the bottom of the 4” with the bottom border line. This  will not lay flat! It creates a tunnel.

4. Next I spray adhesive to the back of my quilt and sew along the outside edges (side, top, side). 

                      

You’re done!

Until the 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

 

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