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12 Little Secrets to Becoming an Art Quilter

Image from https://drbillsukala.com

I love Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen’s passion is the study of happiness and habit formation. On her webpage she has long list of “secrets to adulthood”  The secrets are little reminders that help make life more enjoyable and promote good habits.

I began more than 10 years ago working exclusively on art quilts. For past four years I have been increasingly successful. In the past two years my work has been included in over 20 exhibitions.

This year I received two cash awards.  I attribute my current success to consistent work time, setting clear goals, continued education and belonging to the premiere art quilt community - SAQA.

But when I started this journey, I began working blind. I didn't have very many quilting skills. I had no idea there was a professional art community focused on art quilting. I just saw an art quilt on a wall in my doctors office, picked up an issue of quilting arts and went home with an idea for a fabric collage.

 

 

So here are my 12 insights that I hope will help those starting this journey.

Start with small, easy to finish quilts.

Use materials you have and apply the skills you know.

Making a copy is not a crime, it’s a way to learn

Collect images that inspire you

Have a creative space in your home

Find a "tribe" of  people to help you grow as an artist

Visit museums and galleries

Expand your knowledge of composition

Make something that means something

Share what you make

Have a goal

Remember to Play!

BIG Fish in Little Pond or Little Fish in BIG pond

I have been working the last three years on building a portfolio. My process has evolved through SAQA mentorship program, classes, critique groups, professional conferences, journals and my local community of quilters.

Along the way my perspective has changed. I think of this change as a shift from the kind of creative “pond” I am willing to drive into.

Main-Gallery

Once you have devoted the time and energy to making an art quilt you have to decide its’ purpose. Maybe it’s a valuable stepping stone to the next quilt. It may be just right for your home or as a gift.

There is also the possibility of sharing your work with a larger community.


There are two basic categories of display venues specifically for art quilts:

Traditional quilt shows where the quilt is judged on quality of craftsmanship and secondarily on the artist qualities.

Calls for Entry where judging is through the lense of  a visual art audience.   


Most local, county and state quilts shows have categories that accomodate art quilts.

The category may be pictorial,  surface design, non traditional, or some other "descriptive" title. The show usually lasts a week or less and lets participants pickup and drop off quilts which keeps the costs low. These shows may not require you to submit a digital image or may allow you to simply display your quilt. So if you want to dip your toe in the water, this is an ideal event.  

There are also major quilt shows that attract multi state participants.

Out here in the West there is “Road to California” .  American Quilters Society (AQS) has six quilt shows in the east and midwest. Paducah is a show that draws quilters all over the globe.

Quilts Inc. sponsors the largest quilt festival in Houston Texas: The International Quilt Festival. They also have large shows in Chicago and Kansas City.

The Festival of Quilts in Birmingham England is an opportunity to show off to a global audience. 

The second category of opportunities is a call for entry.

This is a request for quilt artists to display their work in an art venue. It may be a gallery or museum. These venues will display your quilt for a longer period of time and will likely attract people interested in art.

SAQA’s call for entry listing currently has 14 opportunities for regional, national and international exhibitions. These shows have a theme. Read the perspective carefully and see if there is something that speaks to you.

There are also venues that have annual or biannual shows like Sacred Threads. This exhibition is a great starting point for those who haven’t entered a quilt into a national competition.

Museums like Quilt Visions in San Diego California  who are dedicated to displaying artists making contemporary quilt art have opportunities for members including online exhibitions  as well as a couple of themed shows.

There are searchable databases that help you find a place to exhibit. My favorite is CAFE.  CAFE is a service for artists to upload images of their work and to search for calls for entry in your local area, your state and beyond. Best of all it's free. 

My advice is to:

  • Plan well in advance (6 months or more) to enter a quilt.
  • You will need a high quality digital image, a description of your materials and technique and an artist statement.
  • You will need to consider the fee for entry, costs of joining an organization and shipping.
  • Some computer skills are needed.  It’s not that hard, but planning and persistence are necessary. 
  • Be prepared to invest in an entry and not get into the first show you enter. 
  • Keep trying.

So what pond are you ready to dive into?

Until Next Time....
Margaret

On the Wall

FAVA

My quilt “Nan” was included in the long running and prestigious exhibition:

“Artist” as Quiltmaker XVIII” in Oberlin Ohio.   

The exhibition is very competitive and this year was juried by Emily Zilber; a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I received the Kirtz/Van Nortwick Award and an image of my quilt was used in the promotional poster.

The opening was May 12th and the show will run through July 29 2018.


Going to see art at exhibition is a learning opportunity

Seeing the actual art quilt on the wall allows me to to explore another artist’s technique and materials. By getting up close I can make an educated guess about the process. If I am lucky the artist is also attending the opening providing me a unique opportunity to listen to an artist talk about their own studio practice. I eavesdrop on other art quilters attending an opening. They always  have interesting insights into materials and construction.

Work that is presented in a gallery setting with good lighting and hung by professional gallery staff helps me to compare and contrast work in the same medium. I look at the scale of pieces presented, the genres (abstract, figurative, landscapes, conceptual, political, etc.) and level of technical mastery. Seeing which pieces were hung together as a small “collection” helps me see the visual connections from professionals point of view.

Unlike quilts shows, art quilts presented in a gallery setting are selected by a juror to present to an audience. The juror selects work that will “engage” an audience. As I tour the show I try to determine what drew the eye of juor to this quilt. I look  at overall composition and for quilts that are out of the ordinary.

As headed home, during a long day at a couple of airports, I read the catalogue. The catalogue includes a juror’s statement, a curator’s statement and statements from each artist. I read these carefully. Some artists in this exhibition used the statement to take me to another level of understanding of their submission and their larger body of work.

The last thing I look at are the photographs. There was a mixed bag of professional photographs and artist’s taking their own photographs. Each photograph was very high quality; however a photograph can never replace  see the actual work on the wall.


Until Next Time......
Margaret

 

SAQA Conference

home-san antonio

This year I went to the SAQA conference in San Antonio. The hotel was on the famous river walk. I came home with many steps on my fitbit, wonderful pictures and with valuable information to help me improve as an artist and art quilter.

During the conference I signed up to have a critique done by Sandra Sider. Sandra has an impressive resume as an academic, curator and artist. The critique session was held in a large room open to conference attendees. Participants brought a quilt and asked for feedback. Both Sandra and the audience provided specific,helpful and thoughtful advice.

I learned so much from this experience. Sandra was able to share how a juror selects a quilt for an exhibition. Jurors look at a small image sent to them digitally. The quality of that image is crucial to even being considered for inclusion in an exhibition.

  • According to Sandra, contrast is key. A image that has little or no contrast risks being overlooked. 
  • Artists should photograph a 12 x 12 inch section of their quilt in an area that will show the juror a process or a variety of techniques. 
  • Titles that are long or complex won't impress anyone; including the juror.
  • Use the artist statement to make clear to the juror what they are seeing and how your quilt connects to the theme.

I brought a recently completed quilt of my daughter Jana. The initial portrait was taken with a cellphone. It had not be selected for a particular venue and I wanted to find out how the composition could be improved.

Both Sandra and the audience had lot's of positive feedback and a few very good suggestions. When I got home I got out my paint brush. The neck needed a little more shadow below the chin. I added this and toned down the area which included a tattoo of a bird. Although I made little changes; after taking new photographs, I believe they improved my chances for being accepted in the next venue.

If you are a SAQA member, I recommend trying to attend a conference. The experience will help you improve as an artist and allow you to meet some amazing people.

Until Next Time.....

New Directions

feature_artvillage3

Since my last post I have had a series of four rejections to quilt shows. This has made me rethink my focus on building my resume. As I looked over the list of calls for entry I did not get into, I came up with a couple of insights.

After looking at the work accepted to these exhibits;  it was clear that two of the exhibitions "favored' abstract or abstracted compositions. These shows also focused on artists who have a experimental approach to materials. My work was not a good fit because it is figurative and more closely associated with traditional art mediums (photography and painting) .

The other two exhibitions asked entrants to respond to a specific theme. Of the work I have seen accepted into these shows, it was clear my submissions were out of sync - a little too edgy or provocative. I also was creating something for the show and not pulling something from my portfolio to enter. This is a mistake I have made before and yet I did it again!

As luck would have it, a good friend and fellow artist came to visit. We had a great time visiting Kenyatta Art Village and  some local galleries downtown.

She explained how she was heading in a new direction with her art business. Her plan was to limit her teaching schedule to spend more time creating for a studio sale with a few other artists. After sale is over, she will work on becoming  a member of local gallery or co-op.

 

Now I have a new direction.

  • Target my submissions to limited number of exhibitions. This will allow me more studio time to focus on creating.  Then I focus my efforts of finding somewhere locally to sell my work. 

Until next time.....
Margaret