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What’s in a Name

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I have finally completed the horses. I spent almost 137 hours on them. The bulk of that time was cutting and fusing, which was over 63 hours, and then I spend almost 30 hours quilting it.

As noted before, I used my home machine, a Janome 7700. I just set up extra tables all the way around to hold the weight of it as I quilted it. I also practiced drawing my background design from all angles so I wouldn’t have to move the quilt around as much.

This is detail of the first horse on the left — shows some of the intricate background quilting.

This is detail of the second horse on the right.

And now I’m faced with naming this piece. When I hear the song Renegades by X Ambassadors, that feels about right. To me, the horses are renegades in the sense that they’re rebellious and unconventional. However, if you look up the definition of renegade, it’s a traitor or deserter — which isn’t right at all.

They are military horses used in cavalry, and Calvary might make a good name — or War Horses.

If you have an opinion on a name, please leave a comment. I would love to have some input.

 

Sunday Morning Reading

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One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday morning is to curl up on my couch and read the blogs of other artists. This morning, there’s not much in the queue. I opened up Feedly, and my only options are the ever prolific Hyperallergic and 99U. 

Then I felt a stab of regret. I’ve been writing less and less on my blog, some of which is for personal reasons. But can I complain when my fellow artists aren’t producing content to keep me sufficiently entertained?

I’m sure there’s less to read for another reason. After the debacle on the QuiltArt list in November, I took several blogs off my reading list. I also took them off my FaceBook friends list. I’m sure they didn’t even realize I was there. (Which is an unfortunate glimpse into the impersonal side of FaceBook, isn’t it?) I knew only too well who my bullies were — I had been reading their blogs. 

But I made a decision. One that I think each of us needs to make. Am I going to serve the light or the dark? My own situation aside, I’ve seen online bullying sprouting like Spring weeds on the Internet. It’s almost as if people feel that they can share what ever horrible thought that springs into their heads.

We all have our opinions, but as artists, we should support each other. There is not only one pie that we fight over — we make a bigger pie. And I choose to help other artists. I don’t have time for trolls. When I see them, I no longer look away — I confront them & tell them there is a better way. We can’t tolerate the behavior of bullies. We tell kids not to do it. Adults shouldn’t do it either.

Ranting aside, I have less to read. If you have any blogs to recommend of artists that share their creativity and positive energy with the world, please share.

Around the World

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Last year in Houston at Quilt Festival, I had the pleasure of meeting Marilyn Wall. I had admired her work for some time and was excited to meet her. She was attending with an old friend of mine, Denny Webster, who had recently moved from Atlanta to North Carolina.

Marilyn asked me recently if I was interested in participating in the Around the World blog hop. I’ve never done one of these before, but it’s essentially a way for bloggers to promote each other. Marilyn nominated me and another blogger — and I’m supposed to nominate a couple of other bloggers. Hmmmm. Most of the bloggers I know have already participated in this blog hop — and quite frankly, life has been very full around here recently.

BUT — what I CAN do is introduce a few things about me that you might not know.

What quilting/sewing thing am I working on?

If you follow my blog at all, you see what I’m working on. Right now, in my studio, I’ve been cutting out a portrait — I’m working on the hair right now. I’ll blog post about the face later this week. It’s my intention to enter this one in the National Portrait Gallery competition and hope it at least makes it to the semi-finals. Hope springs eternal. And in a little over a week, I’m traveling to Quilt Festival in Houston to step out in the Winner’s Circle and find out what my prize will be. I’m starting to feel butterflies in my stomach.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This is an interesting question. I started making representative patterns because I enjoyed the process, and my first series of portraits were all monochromatic color studies. Once I moved to Georgia and no longer had a wet studio, I was forced to begin considering commercial prints in portraits, and in this, I was definitely influenced by Deidre Scherer. I studied how she used patterns to her advantage rather than seeing them as an obstacle. I also studied Charlotte Warr Andersen, although all of her faces were made with solids. In the end, I made what I wanted to make. The norm at the time in fabric portraiture was not detail but rather obscurity — the side of the face or the back of the head, a closed mouth, a limited value range. I challenged myself to do teeth, to suggest the gum line or the tongue, to add the intention of the ear. I also made surprising fabric choices, not shying away from patterns, and learned how to make them work for me.

Why do I write/create what I do?

I create what I do because it makes me happy. It’s challenging, and I enjoy a challenging puzzle. I remember taking a picture of my daughter and making it into a pattern — and I loved to see the light of her eyes shine out at me from the design wall. I loved taking the impossibility of a waving flag and successfully presenting it within the confines of my 2D fabrics and the sculpture of my quilting thread.

How does my writing/creating process work?

Now this is a really long thing for me to answer succinctly. I have a picture for inspiration (usually one that I’ve taken but sometimes one that I’ve asked permission to use) and from that, I make a value painting in Photoshop (which means that I draw all over it because pictures are only the beginning and will never give you everything that you need because they are not as good as the human eye). From that, I make a pattern. From that pattern, I create fabric templates that I collage together (cutting and fusing — this is secretly my most favorite part). I then stitch it all together through raw edge appliqué, and then I quilt it.

That’s my story. I’ve had my website since April 2005 because I have always enjoyed computers and it was a way for me to stay connected when I lived in a small town in Alabama (particularly when I became a stay-at-home mom), and I started the blog in September 2007. I had been a writer in my youth, and I have enjoyed adding writing as an expression of my creative intentions. I have enjoyed my journey — and I’ve enjoyed sharing it with anyone that has cared to read it and follow it here.

Opportunities

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I have been quilting the third abstract in the car wash series — having fun with it. I eschewed my usual contour quilting for feathers, flames, & fronds. I love the way it’s turning out. I’m also using the thread to pull colors across applique boundaries — and playing with thread choices. I even coaxed a metallic thread to free motion into feathers.

But I only worked in the studio a couple of days this week. I have a friend that’s been giving me scoping work. I hope to get back in the studio tomorrow.

I would like to say that I’ve been working on another portrait for the National Portrait Gallery competition — but inspiration hasn’t struck. Right now I am in the flow with abstract and I have not been successful in changing my direction.

WorryIf you read my Facebook Page, you saw me hyperventilating when I was notified that I won a ribbon in Houston again this year. It’s such a huge honor & completely unexpected. I won’t know till the ceremony at the end of October what the prize is exactly. I’m lucky that I’ll get to go to Houston again this year and actually stand in the Winners Circle.

I may even tweet the whole event like I did last year. It was such an exciting time and I loved sharing it.

For those interested in attending, Preview Night for IQF/Houston is October 30. The show is at the George R. Brown Convention Center and runs through November 2.

I did, in fact, come home after winning a ribbon with Lincoln last year and decided — after making animal portraits for a year — that I would make a person portrait again. Worry was the piece that I made from that decision.

Golden MomentI also found at that Golden Moment was accepted into Art Quilts XIX: Permission to Play. This exhibit is at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Chandler, AZ and will show November 7, 2014 – January 17, 2015.

Permission to Play Art Quilts XIX 1 Sheet

Dolce Far Niente

Making a Plate

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After realizing that the “It’s Raining Cats & Dogs” special exhibit at IQF/Houston had added a new virgin rule this year — thereby disqualifying my piece Golden Moment since I had posted LOTS of pics of it on my website and blog — I decided to make a small piece for another one of IQF’s special exhibits. At first I thought about Life Begins At 40 — since I am currently in my 40’s — but what struck my interest more was What’s For Dinner.

I’m friends with Jamie Fingal, one of the curators, on Facebook, and every night she posts the question “what’s for dinner?” I get to hear about what delicious meal she is preparing and it usually makes me hungry.

Keep in mind that at this decision making point, I was at the beginning of May. I don’t typically spend many hours in the studio during the summer, and May itself is full of constant interruptions — so I was looking for a small piece to do. This needed to be an exact size — 24″ x 15″. Perfect.

Then I started thinking about what to put on the plate — and I started to get hung up on plate design. Let’s face it — there are people that go to culinary school to learn how to properly plate food. (I know — I’ve watched way too many hours of Food Network.) So I was stuck for a while — until I decided I was making this too difficult. I went to my cabinet, pulled out a plate, knife, fork, spoon, and a crystal glass. Then I pulled some simple things from my kitchen — a croissant, a couple of different kinds of miniature cheeses, a boiled egg, and some fruit.

Simple yet elegant. It reminded me of the plate that Julia Roberts makes in the movie Eat, Pray, Love when she is learning about “dolce far niente” — the sweetness of nothing.

I started with my cream Wedgwood Edme plate. There are shadows all ready added for the different items on the plate.

Plate Empty

I put the egg in the middle. Probably not my best choice — a white egg in the middle of a cream plate. And I really struggled with how to make it stand out on that plate. I tried many combinations of white and gray. This is what I ended up with (with one change later).

Plate with Egg

And then I added the fruit. The blackberries are from one fabric — a dark blue batik. It looks really dark in the pic but that’s the limitation range of a camera. If I want the plate to be sharp, then the darkest dark will be a little blurry. Then I added the grapes — and then the orange. I actually had a print of grapes — perfect size too. I thought about using it — but I wanted an artistic representation — not perfection.

You’ll also noticed that I added a rim of gray around the egg. I think it gives the egg more depth than it had. (The bias of white is a little choppy but it’ll clean up when it’s appliquéd.)

Plate with Fruit

And then I added the croissant in the corner. I was dubious about the fabrics but I think they turned out well. It looks even better quilted.

Plate with Croissant

My last food items were miniature cheeses. When I originally photographed them, they were covered in their commercial labels. Those had to go. I redrew them plainer for my plate.

Plate with Cheese

And here you can see the napkin and the silverware. I could tell from last year’s entries that people struggled with the silverware. Using non-metallic grays and black, I took a literal interpretation of the values in the silver. (I did use a metallic thread for quilting them though.)

I chose the background before the napkin. I loved this print and how it worked with the plate. I barely had enough — although I’ll admit at this point that I had it in my mind that the piece had to be 24″ x 18″ — and I wasn’t sure if I would end up with 18″ after quilting. I used it anyway, figuring I could add across the bottom if I had to — and it was just as well since the actual height requirement is 15″.

Plate with Silver

The glass was also something that I think presented a high level of difficulty. I had a nylon sparkly sheer in my stash that I thought might work. I started by experimenting with it and Wonder Under. I wasn’t sure if the heat from the iron needed to bond the Wonder Under would melt the fabric — so I kept the iron low and raised the heat as needed to make it bond. I worked in reverse order. I usually work light to dark — but since I could add depth by layering the fabric on top of itself, I put the pieces that I wanted to be darkest on my pressing sheet first.

Glass stage 1

Then I laid my largest piece of sheer on top. Not only are the raw edges of the first layer all covered (and there are a LOT of raw edges down there), but the layer on top gives the layer underneath more opacity.

I know — it’s a little hard to see on the white pressing sheet.

Glass stage 2

This is the glass on the background fabric. Not as sheer as I would have liked — but good enough. (It really looks fabulous wet — you can really see the background coming through then.)

Glass on background

And here is the full appliqué top before quilting.

Dinner Before Quilting

At some point after quilting, I realized that I only needed 15″ in height — which was just as well since my background fabric had shrunk closer to 17″ — but it’s sad because it meant that I would have to cut off the top of my glass. Oh well. No use spending too much time worrying about that. The glass is to scale and shrinking it to make it fit on the 15″ height would have made it look too small for the place setting.

Dolce Far Niente

Dolce Far Niente

Golden Moment

Acceptance

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Golden MomentI am thrilled to share that two of my pieces, Worry and Golden Moment, have been accepted into Georgia Artists to show at the Abernathy Arts Center in Sandy Springs, GA May 6 through June 13. There will be a reception Friday May 2nd 6:30-8:30pm.

This is a wonderful show. It’s local for me — so this is a rare occasion that I can actually attend the opening reception — but it’s also an art exhibit. This is my 4th year to be included. That first year, I contacted the curator to see if they would consider my work. She said they would and I could enter under the Mixed Media category. This year, for the first time, I was proud to see that they had added a Fiber Arts category.

Worry

I am also proud to say that I have pushed further into accepting myself. In my last post, I was fretting over my taxes — which I prepare myself. For years, I’ve reported my work under Hobby Income and Expenses. Well — that wasn’t working for me any more.

After talking to some accountants and friends, I realized that I needed to change. I am a professional artist. I have business cards, a business plan, a website, a blog, social media accounts, even weekly goals. I just needed to take this to the next level and tell the government that I am a professional artist. If I can make money at it, then I’ve achieved enough success that I should be recognized for that.

Onward and upward!

Tweek!

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twitter.jpgIt’s Sunday and time to review my interesting Tweets from this week.

If you want to follow me in real time, my Twitter account is @vsgreaves — or click the Twitter icon in the far right hand corner above the menu.

Also, if you want to follow some of my daily in process work, see my Facebook page by clicking on the Facebook icon up there next to the Twitter icon.

I read a lot of articles but not a lot of them that I felt like sharing. Someone got the memo that if you want to draw a lot of people to your blog post, put a number in it — I found so many senseless blog posts “9 ways to do <something>” or “30 sure-fire ways to . . . ” There are so many numbered blog posts out there that I think I’ve become immune. People are writing but unfortunately don’t have a lot to say.

This article describes me well today — not creatively motivated — but when it’s during the week and I have the time, I work in the studio whether I’m motivated or not. Sometimes you just have to push through, keep going, and find your way to the other side.
“How to Be Creative Even When You Least Feel Like It” http://feedly.com/e/9BqmwGaL 

This was a quote that a friend of mine posted. I had a tough time getting Twitter to take it since I was limited to 140 number of characters. I took out spaces, used ampersands, & made it work. It expresses a lot of what I’ve felt recently.
Joy & sorrow are inseparable.Together they come & when one sits alone with you.Remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.Kahlil Gibran

This article is just a really good reminder that as artists, we have to protect ourselves. I have a friend who recently made a commissioned piece only to be told at the time of submission that the couple had purchased art from someone else. Don’t let this be you.
“Don’t Get Screwed: The Contract Provisions Every Creative Needs to Know” http://feedly.com/e/SfWvfKBg 

This was written by Barbara Muir guest blogging for Alyson Stanfield on artbizblog.com. Although she’s specifically addressing creative blocks that happen as a result of grief, these are good reminders for any artist to use to get busy in the studio.
“11 Ways to Work Through Your Grief and Return to the Studio” http://feedly.com/e/zPIsD4VX 

As a visual artist, your work is in your visual expression — something all to easily mishandled in this era of Pinterest. This is an interesting lawsuit about an artist that joined an online artists community — only to have his images used for publicity without his consent.
“Artist Feuds with London Art Startup Over ‘Unauthorized’ Prints” — the slippery slope http://feedly.com/e/5q-vzgbG 

The difference between experience and knowledge in one image: pic.twitter.com/Kqr19M07lh via @ArtsyShark

OK — I did like this article — even if it does have a number in the title. I’ve noticed a big change in my Facebook Page exposure. If I post something directly to my Page, it is fairly widely distributed. If I post something to my blog that then publishes to my Facebook Page, it’s hardly seen in others news feeds at all.
9 Ways to Counteract Facebook’s Big Algorithm Change http://buff.ly/1g8pSVh  via @buffer via @ArtsyShark

Finishing Firecracker

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Firecracker smI finished the Yorkie piece on the last day of February — which is great so now I can put February on the label. I know it seems silly but it validates that I worked really hard in February. I had it blocked and drying by the end of the day but didn’t attempt to photograph it until today. It took me a while to get it just right. I even used white as a background so I could align the edges just so. I think I’ve been using a black background as a crutch. Using the white makes it much easier to see whether everything is lined up correctly before I go open the file on the computer. It’s best to go ahead & do it right the first time than have to re-photograph it later for an exhibit application. I know I can always fix camera distortion in Photoshop, but most shows won’t let you make those kinds of digital corrections.

I decided to call this piece Firecracker. This Yorkie has such an explosive personality, it seemed only fitting. Her page can be found here. And in case anyone wants to know — yes it really is an applique piece. This is NOT a photograph — this is NOT an inkjet printed piece. It was insanely difficult but I feel like I’ve solved a difficult puzzle.

Holiday Spirit

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Last night my Fiber Art Fusion art group had our holiday party and we exchanged 5″x7″ sized pieces.

I created this from a picture I took in a church in New Orleans. I’m so pleased with it that I think I will make a larger version for myself. I love the dark angel against all of the ironwork. My friend Hellene Vermillion took this home. She is an incredible silk painter — you can visit her on her website here.

Dark Angel

We brought all of our pieces in a plain brown wrapper so no-one could cherry pick. A couple of women wanted to turn it into Dirty Santa and have stealing — but we decided that that might lead to hurt feelings so we kept what we opened.

I was lucky indeed to receive this piece entitled Here Comes the Sun from Martha Myers. The sun wraps around the back. I love the sashiko stitches in gold thread — and the colors are wonderfully vibrant.

Here Comes the Sun by Martha Myers

Here Comes the Sun by Martha Myers

I have quite a collection of pieces from past parties. I almost didn’t go — everything is so crazy this time of year — but I set aside several hours yesterday to finish my piece so I could go. I’m glad I did.

I feel blessed to have such wonderful friends — and artists to boot!

Finito

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I have finally finished my latest piece Laura Margaret. It is going immediately into a private collection. With any luck, it will be a complete surprise. I loved working on the eyes in this one. I put a lot more detail into them than I have in the past. I took some liberty over-highlighting the rim under the eyes — but I think it makes the piece more striking.

I’m not certain about what I’m going to do next. I am mulling over a few ideas and will hopefully decide soon. I don’t have a lot of time in November and December because of school holidays — but hopefully I can finish a small piece between now and the end of the year.

My piece Bukonyan Elder won first place in the Open: Fiber Art Quilted category at the La Connor Quilt Festival in October and will be held in their extended Top Honors exhibit until the end of the year. I also received exciting news that Celtic Woman will be highlighted in a book being published in April — more details to come later. Finally, my piece Unconditional was invited into a special exhibit called Pets at the International Quilt Show in Houston this November.

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