Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Photo's that take you other places

Steve McCurry is a photojournalist who I have admired for many years. His images are always impeccably composed, and he uses light to the fullest extent possible. He recently posted about how where you are born influences your life. Using photo's and quotes, the importance of place is shown to be paramount in our lives. It is a good reminder of how fickle fate can be. For those of us born into a family who always had enough, it's a good reminder that many don't have that fate.

http://stevemccurry.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/power-of-place/.

Please take a look at his blog post and give yourself a thoughtful few minutes. If you're a photographer, you will also be in awe at his skill. Let me know what you think if you have time. His post made me want to travel to so many places, and reminds me to be thankful for my family and for being born into one that always had enough of everything to sustain us.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Abstraction, Reality and Feeling

"Nothing is less real than realism...Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things." Georgia O'Keefe

Georgia O'Keefe is a favorite artist of mine - as much for her work as for her struggle to be able to do the work. Her life was not easy. Her flowers and landscapes represent how she feels about them. She was a friend of Arthur Dove, who shared her goal . O'Keefe wrote that she wanted to paint how she felt about flowers. Agnes Martin also wrote about making art about feelings as have other artists.

I thought I was going to begin a series about the way birds make me feel. The coloration of feathers, beak, eyes and feet are so full of variety and beauty that they bring a sense of awe. An Audubon book of birds shows the different species but can't bring the quick intake of breathe when you observe a bird in it's natural habitat and feel total wonder at the very fact of it!

I have made one quilt about the Magpie, a common bird in Ireland. They are white and black with markings like tuxedo jackets. When they lift off to fly, you see that their open black wings are iridescent. It was a wonderful treat for me every time I was close enough to see their wings.

I'm not sure if this quilt is successful. I'd appreciate any critiques. 

The quilt below is titled "Magpie". It is made with Shibori pole wrapped fabric. 
I have shown it to a few people whose judgement I value, and there has not been an "Ah!" One instructor recommended cutting it to the composition below. What do you think?



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Edith Head exhibit in Lancaster, Ohio

Edith Head (1897-1981) was a costume designer in Hollywood who won 8 Academy Awards, and was nominated for 35. She worked for Paramount films for 43 years before leaving to work with Alfred Hitchcock at Universal Pictures. "The Sting" was one of the films. She also designed the costumes for "Rear Window", one of my favorite films. Remember the beautiful dress that Grace Kelly wears when she's trying to get Jimmy Stewart to go to a fancy society party with her?

While I was in at the Crow Barn, we took a field trip to the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio, in Lancaster to see the exhibit including a tour with Randall Thropp, the curator of the show. He knew the history of the dresses, which he explained had been rented out for costume parties over the years.

Mae West is quoted as telling Edith Head:
"My dresses should be loose enough to prove I'm a lady but tight enough to show 'em I'm a woman." The last film Edith Head worked on was "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid".

In each room there was an IPad on a stand. You could click on a dress and it would show you a clip from the film with the actor wearing it. It was an effective way to see the dress being part of the directors vision for the narrative.

This is the front of the building.

Below is my favorite dress. Look at the details in the dress. Wow!



These 3 dresses were in the beginning of the exhibit. She could design sexy, over the top feminine and elegant. 


Most of the dresses were filmed in black and white. Although the dresses above were in taupe or gold, they look great in black and white.


Check out the soutache on this coat. It's really pretty and dramatic. The photo below shows it on Una Merkel, the actress it was made for the film "Summer and Smoke".


This was Roy Rogers jacket. I was most excited about seeing this - he was my hero when I was little. Beautifully made and he was so accessible to children - nothing scary like some of the superheroes. 
In February 2003, Edith Head was featured on a U.S. Postal Stamp. What a career!
If you can get to the exhibit, it is worth seeing. I found that the dresses looked very different on the mannequins  than when you saw them moving with the actress in the film. The building is beautiful as well.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A few reasons to go to the Crow Barn for a workshop

That's my workshop buddy, Dianne Mehlinger from VA, Dorothy and me. See how relaxed we are?
I've taken about 6 workshops at the Barn, and always feel that it is an inspiring experience. The last one with Dorothy Caldwell was paced very well, so that there was always something to do, but it never felt rushed.

I'm going to post a few photo's so you get an idea of the place and for those who have been there, to enjoy with your memories!
John Stitzlein, Nancy's husband and partner in all things. Such a good guy.

Quirky insects you don't find anywhere else.
Panoramic view of the inside of the barn. That's Dorothy Caldwell standing up.
Big table space (4' x 8') and design wall too. Makes you happy to spread out!

Margaret Wolfe makes lunch, snack and dinner every day. And dessert after dinner too! This bowl was our cookies for snack on Friday that we could take with us. Look at that great wrapping and detail. Margaret goes the extra mile for everyone.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

More Marks and Bookmaking



During the "Human Marks" workshop taught by Dorothy Caldwell, we were given a very nice paper that was scored in the middle for folding. We cut out shapes using an Exacto knife and then made marks on them. Dorothy had given us two Micron black markers. One had a .05 point on it, and the other had a brush point. I used the brush point to write the words above using the stencil I had cut out.

On the left side of the page above, the word was "egg" and on the right page it was "whole". I don't know why I came up with those words, but part of it was because I liked the way they looked when they were repeated.
  
The page above was filled with squiggles, reminiscent of an "e". I had left negative space on the left side, but decided to cut it out and let a discharged fabric show through from the other side. It needs more work.

This is a batiked and discharged fabric page. It was my first experience doing soy wax batik, and I really enjoyed it. The discharge was done with bleach. There are so many ways to play with soy wax, it will definitely add to my repertoire. Cheryl Rezendes teaches the technique in Massachusetts and I would like to take a class with her so I can further explore this medium.

Let me hear from you!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Human Marks workshop with Dorothy Caldwell

Dorothy Caldwell is an artist, author and teacher who offers a workshop titled "Human Marks".  I have admired her work for a long time and heard that she was an excellent teacher. She taught this workshop last week at Nancy Crow's Barn in Baltimore, Ohio.

It was 5 days with an incredibly generous instructor. Dorothy explained that we are always leaving our marks, and that over the 5 days we would become more aware of them, and notice them everywhere around us.

One of the first techniques we learned to make marks was through Kantha stitch. It is a technique that Dorothy learned about while in Bihar, a rural area in India. Kantha means "rags". It was a method developed to reuse old clothing or fabrics - mending while making it a lovely piece.
As in all very poor areas, fabric is precious, so it is mended over and over so it can still be used. Some of the pieces are started by a mother and then passed down over generations to continue the Kantha stitching.

Dorothy had some wonderful examples. Here are a few - they include social commentary, as they illustrate women in the street, needing a safe place to go for medical care. They are examples of using  different threads on different fabrics - but they all use the same pattern. Starting with the upper left hand corner and going clockwise: white thread on black fabric, black thread on white fabric, colored threads on white fabric and colored threads on black fabric.

Part of the workshop includes learning to make books with your work, so our first project was to make a wrapping for one of the books, using Kantha stitching. I've never been much of a stitcher, but I was soon hooked. Dorothy encouraged us to carry our stitching with us everywhere, and once I started doing that, it was hard to stop stitching!

I started my book wrap on a very dense black fabric, and after 2 days realized it was taking forever because it was so hard to stitch through! I started over with a Kona cotton, and the needle went through it effortlessly.

On the last day we were able to put all of the book wraps on the table and enjoy looking at how different our styles and subject matter were.


Here are a couple more images from Dorothy's samples:
Notice the shadows from the trees around the woman and child and some animals?

This detail image shows how different directions of the same stitch added depth and complexity.

This is the same image, but white thread on black. I am really drawn to the black and white stitching.  The graphic quality is appealing.
I did a little research, and see that there are video's showing stitching. And an Indian woman named Deepa posted about Kantha on her blog.

I will write additional posts about the workshop in the next few weeks.  I'm off to stitch!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Getting Women's work onto the Internet

A recent post on the National Museum of Women in the Arts was particularly intriguing. The staff and volunteers of the museums library spent a day adding the history and biography of women artists to Wikipedia. They found that when googling a woman artist, they often had a web page, and possibly a blog, but no link to the contributions they had made to the art world.

It's not surprising, since so few women artists are represented in most art museums. And 90% of Wikipedia's editors are men. So the NMWA organized a day of editors writing about women artists. It is a fabulous idea, and one I would like to see replicated many times. They will do other "edit-a-thons" to help build awareness of women artists. If you live in the DC metro area, you can check out the blog site and find a date where you could join them.

“Part of our mission at the library is to facilitate knowledge creation about the history and achievements of women artists worldwide. These significant contributions to Wikipedia’s postings help fulfill those goals while also furthering knowledge about women artists,” Heather Slania said.
She is the director of the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at NMWA.

It occurred to me that this would be a great activity for a small group to do together. Research an artist and write a Wikipedia article about them. There are many art quilters who meet in small groups, and they could pick an artist and write about them. It's another way to spread the word about Art Quilters.

Would you be interested in organizing an "edit-a-thon"?