Posts tagged Great Depression

Bountiful Blessings


Mercury must be in retrograde because it’s been an exciting couple of days.

WornIt’s been quite some time since I’ve written. In late May, I spoke at the East Cobb Quilt Guild here in Roswell. I took my slideshow that I’ve been building to show a retrospective of my work — and one of the pieces I had in the slideshow I had entered into the the East Cobb show coming up in a couple of weeks. After I verified that the judges would not be in attendance at the meeting, I decided to leave that quilt in the slideshow but not take it to the meeting. I did, however, have someone pointedly ask me at the end of the presentation where that piece was — that they wanted to see it in person and why had I not brought it? So I fessed up that it was sitting at home, but that they could study it more closely at the upcoming show.

It’s a great guild, and I have several friends that are in it, so it was a lot of fun seeing old friends again.

Fast forward to last night, the awards ceremony and opening reception for the show. I went alone as everyone in my family was busy, but I was greeted by friends at the door and was invited to sit with others that were excited at having seen my presentation a couple of weeks ago. The only thing more fun than old friends are making new ones.

As I was sitting there, the art category came up. Well, I didn’t win anything, but at least Judy Alexander won 1st place. I was very happy for her. I enjoyed all of the categories, and it was fun to see the 1st place winners on the overhead screens.

And then they came to Pictorial. Well, maybe I entered in that category. Turns out, I did! And I chuckled. I was thrilled to see Worn come up on the overhead and win 1st place in its category. I got to walk up to the front and hug Lynn Rinehart and have my picture taken with the ribbon. The ribbon was mostly handmade — beautifully done. And then I sat back down.

They finished the categories and then started talking about the Best of Show winner. This is always a traditional quilt. I know this. It’s expected. Except — HOLY COW! It’s my quilt up there on the screen! I covered my mouth and the woman I was sitting next to had to push me into the aisle so I would walk up to the front. I couldn’t believe it!


photograph by Ben Hollingsworth

So I am overwhelmed. I would do what I do anyway, but it’s ever so nice when people like your work. And to be recognized among your peers is a bountiful blessing.

This morning, I went over to the show to have a quilt appraised — both Worn and Golden Moment will be traveling to Sacred Threads soon and they both require a written appraisal — and my daughter had taken my car since she had been having problems with the Explorer. I had intended to arrive at the show with a half hour before the appraisal so I would have some time to browse the show quilts, but unfortunately, problems with the car took my time and frazzled my nerves. I did make my appraisal appointment on time though, and had just enough time to buy something I’ve wanted for a long time — a thimble from TJ Lane.

IMG_1744I had tried to buy one in Houston last year and couldn’t get near their table, but at this show, there was plenty of room for me to look. My initial choice was one with a jewel, and as much as I loved it, it just didn’t fit my finger. I found another one with a jewel that would work, but again, it didn’t cover my finger as well as this one with the bee — so I went with the bee — because I’m actually buying it to use it, not for jewelry. It’s really all Lynn’s fault. I was trying to talk myself out of it, and she walks up and tells me that I should get it as a reward for myself. It’s a nice present, but really, if it saves me from repeatedly sticking the needle into my finger as I’m sewing on the binding or the facing, I should consider myself pampered and happy. For ages, my thimble has been a cheap brass one that doesn’t fit right, and I think I inherited it from my mom. So now I have quilter’s bling.

Before I left, someone came up to tell me congratulations, that I had won Quilter’s Choice from the vote last night! Wow. So I went to see the new ribbon on my piece, and I was able to spend some time speaking with the docent who was so kindly showing people my work. The First Lady of Georgia, Sandra Deal, wife of Governor Nathan Deal, had come for the ribbon cutting of the show that morning. She loved my piece and wanted to have a picture of me with it, but sadly, that was during the hour that I was dealing with the car, trying to find Lynn, and then having the quilt appraised. Lost opportunity. Oh, well. I was glad to hear that she had enjoyed my piece and that her entourage had taken many pictures of it.

And then I came home to borrow a car, deal with the appliance repair man, and take my other daughter to the doctor (so I was glad that I had borrowed a car because it turned out that I really needed it).

It’s been a long day, I did not sleep well last night, but I’ve taken the ups and the downs and I’m moving forward. Before I left the show today, I converted my entry fee to a multi-day pass, thank goodness, and I hope to go back for some time tomorrow.

Georgia Celebrates Quilts will be open again tomorrow and Saturday 10am-6pm at His Hands Church in Woodstock, GA.

The Use of Someone Else’s Photograph in Your Work



Worry has been quite the topic of conversation today. The QuiltArt List (an online email list for quilters) has been abuzz since someone brought up the subject of this piece at IQF-Houston — and not in a good way.

Many people are familiar with Dorothea Lange’s iconic photograph from the Great Depression — titled Migrant Mother — from which this piece is inspired. The original poster thought that I had merely printed the picture onto fabric and then thread painted it — therefore saying that it was a gross violation of Dorothea Lange’s copyright.

Well obviously Dorothea Lange’s photograph is in black and white and this is not. My piece is all machine appliquéd from commercial fabrics. It is NOT a colorized version of her photograph that was printed onto one sheet of fabric.

Also, I am clear that this is inspired by Dorothea Lange’s photograph, and if you look it up, you will find that — however famous the photograph is — it is in the public domain and therefore free of copyrights.

I also assure that there was extensive drawing from the original photograph to create this pattern. I make a value painting of all of my pieces that start from a photograph, but photographs rarely ever tell you everything you need to know. There are many details that photographs don’t tell you — like fingers and eyes — and many shadows have to be deepened and highlights have to be brought out. You can obviously and easily posterize any picture in Photoshop, but these patterns will never have the level of detail for which I strive.

Furthermore, since it’s a black and white photograph, the color story is entirely mine.

You can make an argument regarding composition. I understand that. In using Dorothea Lange’s photograph, I used her composition. I did not violate her copyright nor did I break any of the rules of the competitions in which she has been entered.

It’s a decision. A couple of years ago, I researched how to make my work more marketable. One way to do that is to use historical figures as subjects. This means using someone else’s composition — essentially. I don’t always do this, but sometimes I do.

There are people that don’t agree that this should be viewed as art.

It’s interesting. I only find this discussion among quilters. I hung this piece in an art exhibit back in May. Everyone knows its inspiration is a well-known photograph — and no comment was made about whether or not it was art. It was not brought into question whether or not it was eligible for a ribbon. I am sharing this merely to contrast the differences between the two communities.

Is it art? Have I created something that hearkens back to the story Dorothea Lange created — and yet made it my own, using my own medium? Does anyone see the modern era mother who has the same stress as the mother from the Great Depression about caring for her children in times of economic hardship?  I suppose the answer will be a personal one to everyone reading this.

Complete Figure

North Carolina Insanity


For my current piece, I was inspired by another picture by Dorothea Lange. This one was taken in North Carolina — 1936 I believe — and shows a woman, probably a sharecropper, standing in an old wooden shack. It appealed to me.

And as I started to work on the first wall of the cabin — I wondered what I was doing. I do portraits. This piece will have a figure in it, but she is not the main focus of the piece.

At one point, I did come to the realization that she is the house. I saw something online by Alice Walker in which she opined the situation of a slave that didn’t have the opportunity to express herself creatively — and I knew that this was the woman in the picture. She is bereft of herself and as worn down and tattered as the house in which she stands.

This is the first value for the right wall of the cabin. It’s a stand-in for plaster. The light in the pic isn’t great — I was working on this at night and didn’t think to turn on my natural light lamp.

Right Wall value 1

This is the second value. It looks stark against the first value. It’s a batik that I bought to work as the background of my last piece, Worry, but it was too light so it ended up in my stash and works nicely here. Really — it does. Just keep going.

Right Wall value 2

My third value is a rusty brown. I had to search some to find this. I had some rusts in my stash but they were too dark.

Right Wall value 3

It’s a wall — I promise — although I’ll admit that I was getting disheartened. Sometimes you just have to keep going. This wall on the right of the piece is lighter than the rest of the cabin.

The next value is the first true brown — but there isn’t a lot of it here.

Right Wall value 4

And then there is the darkest brown. Still doesn’t look right.

Right Wall value 5 & 6

I did realize at this point that I needed to add the door facing — so I went back to the 2nd value.

Right Doorframe 2

And the 3rd value.

Right Doorframe 3

And the 4th value. Done. OK — it doesn’t look right to me either. The only thing missing is the black. There are many tiny lines of black separating the boards — and I had intended to do this in thread at the end — but at this point, I was disheartened and wondering if I had wasted my time — so I added the black.

Right Doorframe 4

Why does that make so much more sense? It just does. Without it, the eye just sees a jumble of shapes.

Right Side Final

And then I did her face. I had painted myself into a corner. I couldn’t use the same brown tones I had used in the cabin for her face, so I decided to try the more yellow browns.

Her face is tiny — maybe an inch and a half — and when I first did this, I took this pic and then threw it in the trash. But, looking at it again in my camera with a little more perspective, I thought it might work — so I fished it out and started making her clothes.

Woman's Face

I needed a color that would make her stand out but not look expensive. In the end, the blue would look best against her skin. This shows the first (very small) and second values.

Dress value 1


The third value shows more of the outline of her dress.


The fourth value brings it even more to life.


This is the fifth value — and at this point, I’m happy with her face.


And then there is a little bit of black to add in there. (Don’t worry about her ear — it won’t be that large once I add her hat.)

Dress value 5

Here she is in her hat and shoes. I chose gray which will be similar to the tiles in the roof. The background will be black and will fill in the space between her dress and shoes.

Woman with hat and shoes

And here she is complete. The tablecloth and table leg are suggested objects. The rest of it falls into shadow.

Complete Figure

As of today, I’ve done both the right and left walls of the cabin, the steps, and I’m almost done with the boards above the door and across the entire top.

I have to admit that I must be insane. This is a very complex piece. The applique is taking a very long time to do. And it is a true departure from the kind of work I normally do.

And yet I keep going. When I’m done with the cabin top — there are still a couple of rows of shingles at the top — and then rocks at the bottom. Hopefully all of this will make sense in the end.

Worry Completed


This week I was intent on finishing my latest piece Worry. I quilted the background and then applied the binding. The hand work is getting harder for me to do. I’m a fairly thin skinned person and piercing my fingers with an extremely sharp needle seem masochistic at best — and my eyes are beginning to struggle to see the tiny stitches. I have only machine applied one binding but I may revisit that on my next piece.

You may have noticed that I missed Wordless Wednesday. That’s because I didn’t think about it until Thursday — and at that point, I felt like it was just too late.

WorryYesterday I finished sewing on the sleeve and blocking it — and today it was dry enough for me to take pictures. I took some for the website — but I’ve about decided it’s time I buy a photographic background stand. I have two design walls made from creosote that have black flannel taped to them which I have used for both blocking and a photography background. I started using them for blocking after I moved here when I discovered that you can’t pin into looped carpet — but sadly, blocking it warps the creosote — which wreaks havoc on the photographs if you’re using the same surface as a back drop. I have learned all the tricks in Photoshop Elements to straighten a pic. Once I realized that water was warping it, I kept one for blocking and the other for photography. Sadly, the one I kept for photography has still warped.

So I intend to order a photography stand this week and re-photograph the pieces I’ve done this year. I probably won’t re-do the images on the website — but I’ll have the proper pics for exhibition entries and publication opportunities.

Applique Beginnings


Once break was over and the girls returned to school on Tuesday morning, I hit the studio and I’ve been working like crazy ever since.

I finished fusing the baby’s blanket — the last fusing section — and then I moved into fusing the larger pieces onto the muslin to begin appliquéing.

I did have a moment when I was working on the mom that I thought I should have kept her in smaller pieces — her face, her hair, her lower body, her jacket — but I fused whole people together and I was just going to have to live with everything trying to fall off as I started the appliqué process.

I laid my value study on the floor and covered it with muslin, cutting it to fit.


Using the drawing behind as a guide, I laid down the mother and fused her right down onto the muslin on the floor.


I started with her arm but quickly moved into whatever fabric didn’t want to hold onto the fusible the most. I can iron as I go — but squinching (new word?) the fabric under the harp of the machine can wreak havoc on your relationship with your fusible. Bottom line — fusible is a temporary relationship. Everything has to be sewn down.

I do use Wonder Under — and they’ve obviously recently changed the formula. Everyone raves about Misty Fuse — I’m not sure I could get used to something I can’t easily buy and that isn’t already paper backed — but one day I may give it a try. My feelings about Wonder Under vary with the complexity of the project.

Also — I made a command decision on this piece. After having gone to IQF/Houston & realized that I’m one of the few remaining artists that feels the need to cover raw edges — I’ve changed my strategy. A little, anyway. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it altogether. As I said, given the size & complexity of my appliqué shapes — if I fused the entire thing down & started to free motion quilt — I would have chaos on my hands. I did, however, compromise with a free motion zigzag. This is my first time with this stitch but given that I free motion quilt with the feed dogs up — it wasn’t much different — it gave me a little more control. And it’s faster — which is the biggest thing.

This is the woman after I finished appliquéing her this morning — from the back.

 back of mom appliquéd

Once she was done, I fused her son to her left. He is also a complete fused piece. I started appliquéing him this morning — and will probably finish him in my next studio time (since it’s Friday, there’s no telling when that will be.)


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