Pokey Bolton put out a call a few months ago for an exhibit honoring Yvonne Porcella. I was never personally acquainted with her, but she was the founder and first president of Studio Art Quilt Associates, an organization that has made great strides in advancing the art of the quilt in our culture, from which I have personally benefitted. So I have decided to pay homage to her exquisite life and learn more about her in the process.
She was part of a group of ladies for whom red was a neutral. Such brass. I struggle with hot colors, but I knew that this would be a fun challenge. I also hoped to merge my style with hers, and in the process, learn to further loosen up my creativity. My process of portraiture is largely controlled, but there is something to be said for freeing your mind to accept creative karma into your work. As you’ll see, it helped me immensely in the final design.
I chose a selfie of her from her Facebook photo album. I later realized that it was also the pic being used as the cover for the show, although that was not my original intent in choosing it. No matter. I was only using it for inspiration. My final piece would be markedly different.
I started with the lightest shades. The final piece will be relatively small — 18″ x 26″, so I could fit her face on my small pressing sheet (which at this point is torn and marked but it still works).
This is the 3rd value — you can begin to see the outline of her face take shape.
The 4th value give you shadows.
The 5th gives more.
The 6th value. The lines under her eyes are the shadows of her glasses on her face.
And yes, I’m pushing the envelope with a 7th value.
Her eyes in the picture were of no help. The shadow from her glasses was too great, so I had to redraw them as I thought they would be.
And here are her signature black and white checked glasses.
Then I added the teeth and the mouth.
And then she sat for a while, and I decided that her eyes weren’t commanding enough, so I changed the irises of her eyes to a deeper blue.
Yesterday, I finally had to time to work on her for a while. My original idea was not to have a hat or clothing — just have her face among blooms, but when the time came to cut into fabric, I wasn’t seeing it that way anymore. I changed my mind about the hat and the scarf and shirt, and I decided to have a green background with red, purple, pink, and orange squares covering it in a grid fashion.
And by the way, I didn’t photograph my first attempt at her hat. It was awful. When something is yellow, it is hardly every TRULY yellow. I threw it in my scrap bin and remade it in more orange and brown tones.
But you see, this is wrong also. It is not the spirit of her at all. So after I woke up this morning, I ripped her off that green. Red is her neutral, so I knew I needed to start with red.
I had the perfect piece, but it wasn’t large enough — which was actually perfect because it forced me to use purple — which is more like what she would have done. I also changed her shirt to a pattern that had warmer colors.
I studied several of her pieces, and decided that free-hand block letters of her name would be perfect in a bright red. Then I added the stars that she often used, and then finished with a few flowers.
I’m going to let it sit for the rest of the day before I decide if I want to add more. The print on the scarf is the right mix and black and white — but the square of the dominoes are making the scarf seem less flowing than a scarf should be. I may have to run to the fabric store for a replacement.
I have completed my latest piece, The Abyss. Again, I find that I am reluctant to talk about it very much. I wrote an artist’s statement for it which I promptly deleted before I published it. Sometimes, it is best to let the art speak for itself.
This is another abstract piece but entirely my own. It is a figure that has been highly stylized with photo manipulation on the computer. Once I was happy with it, I worked with a fabulous company out in Anthem, AZ, called Studio West. In the past, I’ve printed digital pieces on my little printer and then sewn the pieces together — or more recently, I had a piece printed at Spoonflower. You get what you pay for. The Studio West piece is printed on silk — which I haven’t worked with before — and the small business owners work very closely with the artist to authentically reproduce the image onto fabric in the highest resolution and with the truest color matching. It was a joy to work with them.
Working with silk is interesting. It isn’t like cotton much at all. I had to stabilize it with a Pellon fusible interfacing so it wouldn’t slide all over the place. That requires some wet heat, and I learned that that also helped set the ink, although I still had some come off, so my pressing cloth and my ironing board suffered some ink injuries. I knew that I couldn’t use pins to baste the quilt layers together. Someone told me to baste just the outside, but if something is going to go horribly wrong, it’s going to go wrong on my watch. I had to have more control over it before I’d start running it under the needle. Some people said no to spray basting — others recommended it. I still had some from when I was making the Wash & Wax pieces with Leisa Rich, so I tried a light application. Thankfully, it worked like a dream.
Much faster than my heavily appliquéd pieces and it still gets the point across.
Leisa has written an excellent page on her website about our collaboration, Wash & Wax, (which you can find here) — and she asked me for a link to the SAQA Journal article that I wrote about the collaboration that was published in the Fall 2015 issue. I thought that surely I had the link on my website, but a quick search showed that I had neglected to share it. It’s amazing how life gets in the way.
2015 SAQA Journals are not yet available online to non-members, but with SAQA’s permission, here is our article:
I also found that I haven’t provided a link to the ArtsATL article written by Gail O’Neill. You can find it over here.
I find myself currently in the space in between. I accomplished so much work in January and February, and I now find that my creative self is requiring a break. I’ve been trying to cajole it into motion with small projects, leafing through pictures, reviewing calls for entry — it’s just not going anywhere right now. And that’s fine. Right now I have house company, and I’m enjoying doing for them. My studio went from looking like a train wreck a couple of weeks ago to a point now where it’s almost sterile. I put away all of the fabric from my last two projects as well as a bunch I got for Christmas. At least this gives me time to finish my taxes.
Leisa Rich & I decided to make one more piece for the Wash & Wax show exhibiting at Hammond Gallery at Jacksonville State University, thinking that the space was large enough to accommodate another piece. (By the way, we were wrong and ended up deleting a piece from the show for space limitations.) It’s a triptych in all grays — but with blue and green nail polish painted vinyl appliqués on the top. It’s much quieter from the other pieces but is striking on its own. I have a created a page for Dripped here.
While we were in Jacksonville, we had a one-day workshop for the art students. They do not currently have a textile program, but it was mind-blowing to me what these young adults could do with fabric in such a short period of time.
This is one of the students next to Bryce Lafferty, one of the professors who also curated our exhibit. The student is learning on to draw using one of Leisa’s sewing machines, and Bryce is working on a hand-sewn 3-dimensional piece.
Another one of the students, perfectly comfortable using the sewing machine as he would a pencil.
This is Brittany, who I predict is a future fabric stash-er in the making. I spent some time talking with Brittany. She’s incredibly talented. She’s graduating in May, and I hope that she finds the perfect place to grow in her artistic journey after graduation.
This particular piece is 2-d but organically shaped.
Hammond Gallery is newly renovated, and it’s a gorgeous gallery space. This is the entry with Entry Point above the guest book.
The large wall was reserved for Industrial Car Wash. It’s in a completely different composition than how it was presented at Abernathy. It has interchangeable pieces so it can fit different spaces. Given that the wall was a little smaller than the one we used at Abernathy, it is taller and reaches almost floor to ceiling.
Next to it is Skitter.
On the other adjoining wall are 6 of the photographs and 6 of the Micro Bubble Series. We actually had 8 of each but felt the wall was too crowded with 2 more rows.
Next to Skitter and covering the back entrance is Drive Thru Slowly made from actual car wash strips.
A far corner has Polish on the left, the 2 remaining photographs and 2 remaining Micro Bubbles, and then Leisa and I decided to bring individual pieces of our work for comparison to the collaborative work. Leisa brought Placid which we placed sculpturally on a pedestal (although it can also hang on the wall). I didn’t get a close-up picture of it, but you can find it on Leisa’s website here.
My piece is a self-portrait entitled The Canary. You can read more about it here.
This is an awesomely cool panoramic shot of the gallery that Leisa took.
And this is a side view of Dripped. It was at the far end and couldn’t be stretched into the panoramic. You can see the blue and green nail polish accents a little better in this shot.
This one was really tough to photograph, and I’m not sure how well I succeeded. I was considering purchasing an external flash, but now I’m leaning towards using a local photographer that I’ve been introduced to that I think would do a better job of photographing my work. He essentially creates a white box — but a whole room like that, and then shoots through a pinhole. He also knows exactly the angles to set up the lights so that you’ll still see the texture of the surface of the work. I’ve photographed my own work enough to appreciate that the man really knows what he’s talking about.
But now here I am. I went from insanely busy finishing work for the opening at the JSU and preparing for the workshop — to nothing. I am in between. I think I’ll just enjoy it for a while.
I have been working a blue streak in the studio lately. Not only did I finish The Canary, I also worked with Leisa to make 5 more small pieces for the Micro Bubbles Series (so we’d have 8 total for the JSU show) AND a large triptych for the Wash & Wax show opening at Hammond Gallery at Jacksonville State University on Thursday.
You can see The Canary on its new page here, and you can see the new Micro Bubbles Series II here — scroll down to the bottom to see Series II. I don’t have a pic of Dripped yet. It’s too large for my studio, but I’m planning to take pics of tomorrow once it’s hung at the gallery tomorrow.
The university has unfortunately changed the opening reception to invitation only. They will, however, have a public closing reception on April 7th, and the show will be open the entire month of March (after tomorrow when it’s hung). I have several friends in the area since I used to live near there that I hope will go see the show.
A friend of mine has asked me to explain how I do facings. I took pics and then decided maybe someone else would like to see how they’re done.
I started doing them during the Wash & Wax series. They give a much cleaner look than a binding, and they’re much easier on the fingers since you’re sewing through less layers. It was also the perfect finishing technique for pieces that had a lot of vinyl on them. I couldn’t iron a binding back from off the side of vinyl or it would melt the vinyl, but I had no problem ironing vinyl from the back of the piece while attaching facing.
I cut 2″ lengths for the four sides as well as 4 3-3/4 inch squares. The square is used in the corners, and the bias edge is a blessing.
Mark the top of the quilt with the finishing lines. I mark a rectangle with squared up corners (which with a large piece can be more easily said than done). Press each of the four squares in half. Then pin them into the corners that you’ve marked and sew them on with a 1/4″ stitch from the outside edges.
Take the 2″ strips and sew them together to make them long enough for each side (not all the way around). Fold back 1/4″ to the wrong side and press. Then I like to add 1/2″ fusible strips to hold down that 1/4″ that I’ve just folded back. Leave the paper on.
Then pin the facing strip to the sides — but don’t go all the way into the corner. I’m further over here to the left than I need to be. The folded bias square underneath is going to hide the edge anyway. It’s going to be on top after all of this is flipped to the back. After I made this one, I didn’t put the facing strip as far over on my next piece and had less bulk in the corner — which made turning the corner inside out easier.
Sew the 2″ strips to the front of the quilt, right sides together. The folded long side with the fusible will be on the opposite side.
Then press the strips open. Here, you see the top facing pressed open. The right side strip was pressed open and then was stay stitched about 1/8″ from the fold. That’s the next step. Stay stitch all the way around. It makes it easier for the facing to pull to the back. (Lock your stitches at each beginning and ending.)
Then take the paper off the fusible on one strip on one side. Using your iron and steam, pull the facing to the back and fuse down. Don’t worry about the corners until all of the sides are done.
Then take off the paper on the next strip and pull it down. Steam is your friend. The fusible will hold down the edge. If the facing isn’t straight, rip it off, reposition it, and re-steam it in place.
Notice that I used the same fabric for the backing, the facings, and the corners. I also used the same fabric for the sleeve. It gives it a clean look on the back.
I love using the fusible to hold everything in place until I can hand sew it down — which is the next step. I used to use the clear Elmer’s glue on bindings to hold everything in place before hand sewing, but I found that after a few years of travel, my bindings would begin to wrinkle. I think that even though the glue is water soluble, it wasn’t entirely washing out (even though I would soak my pieces in tubs of water for a while). Over time, it was drawing the fibers together — like a starch would. So it occurred to me to use fusible. It’s all over the front of my work — might as well use it on the back as well. And I know what to expect from it over time.
The first few times I did a facing, I topstitched all the way around from the front to the back. The thread color became an issue as I went around, so I didn’t care for that as much. The stay stitching accomplishes the same thing, and it’s invisible from the front.
So I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been working on a very personal piece, a self-portrait. I’m a very private person, and I need to remind a few of you of the boundaries here. I write my blog as a teaching tool. This is not intended as a preview into my personal life. If you enjoy reading it, that’s great, but if you know me personally, I don’t intend to answer questions about anything other than process to fellow artists and/or quilters. So please, don’t ask.
My original intention was to make two companion pieces. I intended to make a whole portrait of me (a picture I took of myself with a handy remote control for my camera) and then cut it in half. One piece would be the left half of the realistic me, & the right side would be an artistic interpretation of me inside. The other piece would be the same in reverse. Each piece would focus on two different views of who I am.
But this piece took on a life of its own. It didn’t want to be cut in half, and as I worked on her, she told me what to do.
This is the first flesh value.
This is the beginning of the hair.
And then rather than add a solid background, I started cutting out black and white fabrics. Not sure why. I had a lot of them in my stash, small pieces, and I cut them into strips and arranged them by value.
And then I sewed on the flesh section. It was really humbling to see myself bald. I had a friend years ago who shaved her head in solidarity with another woman who lost her hair due to cancer treatments. I had not really thought about it before, but women invest some of their identity in their hair. I don’t know that I could have done the same & shaved it. What would I look like bald? I guess now I have an idea. It’s not as bad as I expected.
And then I pinned this piece on the wall and asked my muse what it needed next.
I considered adding a raven on my shoulder. I like ravens, but I didn’t think it would work well with the background. So after thinking about it for a while, I settled on a little yellow canary. She adds a nice punch of color to my shoulder. Canaries are also the birds that miners used take into the mines with them to judge the air quality. As they went about their work in a dangerous place, the bird kept them safe through their life.
This was my first try. Yellow is hard to do. I decided she was too dark.
And at this point, it’s just not quite right. The left eye is too plain compared to the right eye. So I added darker fabric and some black embroidery around the left eye. It’s the light side of the face, but it has to balance the right.
Did I think of Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait with thorns when I did this? At some point, I did. But this is my interpretation. Me and my canary.
She’s basted now and ready for quilting. The deadline for the exhibit I’m entering her in is still over a month away, but I have a lot to get done between now and then. The first week of March, the Wash & Wax exhibit will be hung at Jacksonville State University, and Leisa Rich and I are making 5 more Microbubbles (small framed pieces) and one more large piece — a triptych.
Back in late July (I had to look this up — I can’t believe how long I’ve been working in this piece), I had an idea for a new piece. I had finished up most of the work for the Wash & Wax exhibit and wanted to get back to realism. A SAQA call for entry created a spark of imagination, and I was off and running on a large ambitious piece.
The central figure in this piece is a vulture. This is the vulture with the first value.
The second value.
The third value.
The fourth value. The bird really starts to come alive here.
The fifth value.
And the sixth value — all those really dark nooks and crannies.
But there’s a lot more to this piece than just the vulture. There’s also a stained glass window. I knew that if I had the right fabric, I could fussy cut sections to give me the stained glass effect. I scoured the local quilt shops, but they just didn’t have what I needed. I ended up finding some Paula Nadelstern prints online, however, that were perfect.
This is the beginning. The drawing is under the pressing sheet so you can see where I’m going with this.
I originally picked a print in teal, but at the last minute, I also bought it in another color way and ended up using them both. I used the teal for the swirls and the purple/green/red for the main windows.
I had a very small piece of fabric in my stash that was perfect for the outer border. I had less than a fat quarter, but I had just enough.
And then I added this black stained glass print for the leading (also a Paula Nadelstern print.)
I pinned it to my black design wall with the vulture to see how if they were working together.
And then I kept going. I had a picture I had taken years ago of the brass lectionary podium in a church. I considered drafting out values and using flat cotton fabrics, but really, there’s a lot more choices in that fabric store beyond cottons. I found this metallic gold spandex nylon that has a black shadow to it. It’s stretchy, but what the heck. I figured the Wonder Under would help stabilize it.
I was still able to cut out some fairly complex shapes without it falling apart. This is a part of a screen section.
And this is part of the larger structure. I didn’t take many pictures of the lectionary as I worked on it. Suffice it to say that I had luckily cut out all of the complex parts before I broke my wrist — my right wrist.
That was on Labor Day. I was in the middle of curating a show at The Art Place and preparing for the opening of Wash & Wax. Thankfully, the only work I had left for the opening was to hand sew the binding of a 9 foot long piece. With a cast on my right arm, I would insert the needle with the right hand, and then pull it through & out with the left.
This shows the lectionary completed with a wooden railing at the top, the stained glass window, and other elements.
And here is the vulture in his place. I did, by the way, appliqué each piece on to the background as I went. I couldn’t risk the spandex stretching out of control on me, and it didn’t stick as well as I would have liked with the Wonder Under — but working one piece at a time, I worked through it like a large puzzle.
This pic is blurry (the sheen off that metallic fabric was confusing the camera in my iPhone), but it shows the addition of the Arabic symbol for Nazarene spray painted on the back wall.
And then of course I had to add the spilled wine and broken bread at the bottom — symbolizing the broken blood and body of Christ — which also symbolizes the broken body and blood of Christians being murdered in the Middle East.
And even though I was in a lot of pain, I just kept going. Entries were due October 31, and I had spent too much time on this piece to miss the deadline.
I really worried about quilting this large piece. I still had my cast on, and I knew it would be heavy. I debated renting time on a long arm at the local quilt shop, but I finally realized that that was a new skill for me, and I really didn’t want this to be a practice piece for quilting.
So I moved all of my tables in my studio. In front of my machine, I have a board (which sits on my ironing board), and I put one table on the other side of that. Then I crammed another one just to the left of my chair. (I briefly envisioned creating a sewing table built like a doughnut.)
In the end, it worked. It supported the quilt perfectly, and I was able to quilt this in a week.
In this pic, you can see how the quilting outlines the vulture’s neck and defines his feathers better.
At about this time, I got my cast off, only to learn that I had lost 50% range of motion in my wrist. But I just kept going. I managed to add the facing and the sleeve to the back. And then I photographed it myself. I bought some more lights since the piece is so large (once again wishing I had a Speedlite flash), but after spending a couple of days on it (and wishing I had someone I could just take it to), I finally got some good, sharp pics for entry.
I entered it a week before the deadline. I was so proud of myself. I loved how the piece turned out, and I felt confident that it would be a great contender for inclusion in the show. You can see the full piece on its page The Last Supper.
I was wrong. My rejection email came this morning. However, I’m still very proud of this piece, and I was pushed to develop a complex story for my subject. I wouldn’t change a thing.
So I take the sting of rejection, and I move on. I will enter it somewhere else, and it will have a life. It didn’t fit in that show, but it will fit somewhere else. I just have to figure out where next is.
Leisa and I went through the gallery and made a quick video talking about the collaboration. We recorded it on an iPhone, so even though I amped up the audio, I’m still a little hard to hear since I’m not holding the phone most of the time. But this is my first video editing adventure. I learned how to cut out rough transition sections and clean it up using iMovie. I make make more videos in the future.
Watch on Youtube: https://youtu.be/6Xp6KP-Q_4k
Everyone is getting ready to go to Houston next week, and it makes me sad that I won’t be there. I’ve been there the last two years — but I didn’t have anything new to enter. All of the work I’ve made in the last 18 months has gone into the Wash & Wax exhibit. It was at Abernathy in Sandy Springs, GA through October 18th. Four of the pieces will hang in a private gallery in Buckhead, GA in January. The entire exhibit will show at Hammond Gallery at Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, AL in March, and then an abbreviated version of the show will travel to TX in the summer.
Where have I been lately? In the melee of curating Formidable Fibers and finishing up Wash & Wax, I fell and broke my right wrist, which is my dominant hand, on Labor Day. I was given a removable cast and told only to take it off to shower. When the cast came off a couple of weeks ago, the wrist was 80% healed, but I had lost 50% mobility. The good news is that I’ve become fairly ambidextrous. The bad news is that typing really hurts. Even now after some physical therapy. So baby steps.
But since everyone is going to Houston next week, I wanted to share the one piece I did make and send — a piece for the IQA Auction. (I did, by the way, complete this just before breaking my wrist.)
I spent a while contemplating what to do. I was close to completing everything for Wash & Wax, but I had started an entry for a SAQA show whose deadline is October 31. I considered making a complete face, but I didn’t really have time to do it justice. However, they asked for something in our signature style, so I felt as if I should do something along the lines of a portrait. Last year I did a cardinal. Small format work is hard for me.
I finally decided that I could do a set of eyes peeking through a slot in a door — rather like the woman peeking through Amy Pond’s reality in Doctor Who. This is the first two skin values.
This is the third. Still hard to see without the irises of the eyes for reference.
Four and five give enough definition, but he still looks rather like a zombie.
The last value gives you the exaggerated curve of the questioning eyebrows.
And finally, the eyes. For inspiration, I used a picture I took of my husband soon after we were married. I even managed to match his eye color fairly well.
And here he is peeking through the door.
I changed how I did this face — subtly, but I like how it turned out. I usually don’t start any part of the eyes until the end. In this instance, I filled in the whites of the eyeballs in the beginning when I laid down the other lightest values in the face. It makes then recede a little bit more.
So if you get a chance, stop by the Auction Booth at IQA while you’re in Houston next week and make a bid on one of the fabulous pieces they’ll have. And if someone would snap a quick pic of mine on the wall with the other work and then email it to me, I’d be very grateful.
So we are closing in on opening for the Wash & Wax exhibit at Abernathy in September, the collaboration I’ve been creating Leisa Rich for over a year. My, how time flies. There are so many last minute details to take care. I still have to add labels to all the pieces — and I have figure out how to put a sleeve on a piece that’s 9 feet long.
I spent a great deal of time yesterday photographing work. I’m realizing that Leisa is a lot more particular about photography since she’s had experience working with a professional photographer. I see now that I don’t have enough even lighting, although I’ve gotten a lot better at taking a really sharp pic. Eventually, we’ll have them professionally photographed, but for now it’s me.
And now that we’re about a month out from opening, it’s time to start showing some details of what we’ve been doing. We have named all of the pieces, and I’ve upgraded their pages with detail shots. Closer to the opening, I’ll share full shots with pricing.
I don’t have pics yet of the small pieces that we’ve done. They’re 10″x8″ and framed under glass — known as The Micro Bubble Series. Also, the 25 foot by 7 foot piece that we’ve named Industrial Car Wash will have to be photographed in the gallery. (It only fits in my studio in a stack.) And there’s one last piece made with actual car wash strips, Drive Through Slowly. Oh yes — and there will also be some 10″x8″ framed photographs of Leisa’s inspirations.
The show at Abernathy Arts Center will open September 18 and will run through October 16. The opening reception is Sept. 18th 6:30-8:30.
Then we will have a few pieces hang in Signature Gallery in Atlanta in January, and the entire show will be exhibited again at Hammond Gallery at Jacksonville State University for the month of February.