Friday, November 30, 2012

More Wooden Spools

(Above:  Ancestor spools in progress.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Although I've finished several pieces using old, wooden spools, I'm constantly working on these tiny gems.  They are fun to wrap with wool yarn and fun to stitch with assorted embroidery threads.  They are my favorite project while riding in the car on trips. 

(Above:  Ancestral Cradle, 17" x 24" x 18".  Click on image to enlarge.)

My first grouping of spools included thumbnail reproductions from family photo albums.  I put them into fiber vessels and called them Ancestors I and II.  I made so many wrapped & stitched spools that they filled two vessels.  There was a time when these two works were both in national juried shows ... at the same time ... in different parts of the country!

Later, I decided to wrap a couple hundred spools without adding the family photos.  Why?  Well, I love the old paper thread labels.  The first grouping covered up all the labels ... all the "vintage" letters and ancient price tags.  No one would really know that these were, in fact, OLD wooden spools.  So, I created Spool Cradle and then Spool Cradle II and finally Spool Cradle III.  All these were stuffed with wrapped and stitched wooden spools that still sported vintage ends.

(Above:  Ancestral Cradle, detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Once you start a project like this, people start to know about it.  Generosity kicks in.  Donations are made, and I end up with dozens more wooden spools on which to work.  Lately, I decided to turn the newest batch of wrapped & stitched spools in more "ancestors".  One of the reasons for this is the fact that I now have about three thousand more digital images from my Grandpa Baker's slides, 1953 - 1968.  Thus, I have plenty of material for thumbnail photos.

(Above:  Ancestral Cradle, detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

So I decided to make enough new spools to fill one of my cradles.  This piece and Bundles Of ... have been submitted to curator Joetta Maue's for her upcoming exhibit Down to Sleep.  I hope she likes them!

(Above:  Fiber vessels filled with wrapped and stitched wooden spools.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I'm continuing to make even more of these spools.  I've got at least another one hundred to go!  Although the cradles are in "storage", the wooden spools actually sit inside fiber vessels here at Mouse House.  I am linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays" blog featuring other "works in progress".

(Above:  The Cemetery, Grave Rubbing Art Quilt.  Click on image to enlarge.)

One more thing!  The Cemetery was accepted into the 34th Annual Contemporary Crafts national juried exhibition at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, Mesa, AZ. Jan. 25 - Mar. 31, 2013. I'm excited!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend

(Above:  Shadow and me ... ready for the big Ohio State game.)

Generally this blog is for my artistic endeavors.  Yet, every once in a while, I like to throw in a post about "the rest of my life".  This is such a post!  The photo above was taken yesterday morning, the day of the big Ohio State vs. arch-rival Michigan football game.  Most people don't know that Steve and I met during my second week at Ohio State (fall 1977) in Block O, the student cheering section at the Ohio State home football games.  I headed this rowdy group of 1500 raving fans the following year.  Steve headed Block O's basketball cheering section.  We were married in 1981 ... on the first home football game Saturday.  Our colors were OSU's, scarlet and gray.  I don't think Shadow cared about any of this.  She simply hated the little hat that my sister Sonya sent for the occasion!  (Ohio State won!)

 (Above:  Steve, a 48-inch metal ruler, super oversized foam-centered board, and part of two giant frames.)

On Bastille Day 2001, Steve and began to forcibly down-size Mouse House, our custom picture framing business.  At the time, we had fourteen on payroll and worked ALL THE TIME.  I wanted to become a professional artist (despite lack of formal art training or any real background in art!)  It took a couple of years to find jobs for most of the employees, finish up long term commitments, and for me to figure out how and what I wanted to make artistically.  It was quite a journey!

Mouse House is still the first floor of our historic, downtown home in Columbia, South Carolina.  Steve and I still do very limited custom picture framing.  Occasionally, we take on a job that is almost unbelievable.  We took on this one!  The diptych is by Richard Serra, an artist internationally known for his monumental metal sheet assemblages and sculptures.  He's also created very large and extremely rare works on paper that sport textural black surfaces that are remarkably like his metal finishes.

 (Above:  Me with one of the Richard Serra prints after accomplishing the pass-through hinges that attach the rag paper artwork to the rag super-sized mat board.)

The frames (inner measurement) are 93 1/2" x 51 1/2".  This allowed two inches of mat board to show all around the heavy paper artwork.  Pass-through hinges went through the super-sized mat board ... allowing the artwork to "float" on top of the mat.  These are NOT the largest things I've ever framed.  I've framed bigger oil paintings.  They are, however, the largest works of art on paper that I've ever framed!

(Above:  Diptych by Richard Serra ... FINISHED!)

Steve and I were really happy when we were finished (although I still don't like the fact that these paper pieces are open to the air.  In "proper" framing, all works of paper must be behind some sort of protective glazing ... like Plexiglas or UV filtering Lexan ... but this is how Richard Serra's gallery presents the work ... so ... WHATEVER!)  Steve and I positioned giant pieces of corrugated in front of the art and released the angry cats from the bathroom.  The cats were NOT permitted near these big, valuable works during the entire morning!  Yes, the cats had it rough ... but they did get some turkey on Thanksgiving Day!

Friday, November 23, 2012

The past week

(Above: Me with Jasper Magazine editor Cindi Boiter.  Presentation of the 2012 Jasper Magazine Visual Artist of the Year at City Art Gallery.)

The past week has been a whirlwind of activity. Several recent blog posts seemed to be leading up to Vista Lights, the annual art crawl here in downtown Columbia, South Carolina.  This year was busier than ever ... especially after the hilarious disaster and resurrection of one of my pieces. (By the way Healthcare in America is Broke did receive a positive mention in the newspaper review!  It was called a poetic disaster that turned out better than originally conceived!)

(Above:  Messy studio ... the day before Artista Vista. Click on image to inspect just how bad it was!)

I was also pressed for time ... trying to get to a place where I could stop production of new faux-stained glass fiber pieces and clean up for the art reception. My studio was more of a disaster than the broken artwork.  It looked like the photos above.

(Above:  Clean studio ... 24-hours later ... in time for Artista Vista's art reception! Click on image to inspect that fact that the floor is even swept!)

Well ... I made it!  The piece on which I was working was under the sewing machine. The reception started at 5 PM. By 6 PM I was up the street accepting the 2012 Jasper Visual Artist of the Year Award.  Thank you to everyone who voted. These awards were distributed along with the newest issue of the magazine ... including a brief article on me!  (The magazine is available on-line! I'm on page 20.)  I'm humbled by the words and honored with the award.  There's even a video of me accepting the award.  It's on the Jasper Facebook page.) By 7 PM I was back in my studio getting ready to christen the vessel on which my friend Jeff Donovan and I made.

(Above: Collaborative with Jeff Donovan.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Jeff and I created a Facebook event to name this vessel. We planned to christening it with cheap champagne at 8:45 PM during the Artista Vista reception.  The press release for the group exhibit included the information. It made the newspaper.  We suggested two titles:  Unexplored Territories and A Day's Catch.  We also provided a clip board for people to suggest other titles.  I added all the voting and suggested titles from my blog and Facebook ... but at 8:45 Jeff was no where to be found.  We had exactly the same number of votes for both suggested titles ... only twenty each.  We also had over two full pages of written suggestions.  People were still writing new, potential titles.  By 9 PM, Jeff was still a "no show".  I cracked open two bottles of champagne and announced the official name as Yet To Be Determined.  Everyone laughed.

Later Jeff explained.  He got caught in another artist's studio in a deep discussion with an ex-Protestant minister from New England about the merits of paper clay ... losing total track of time.  Jeff also said that since the voting was a dead even tie, we ought to "form a committee to break into sub-committees and investigate the ballots, the procedures, and the accuracy of the electoral process in order to determine a rightful title".  He said this should take about a year.  We both laughed.  We both thank everyone who voted and suggested a title.  Many of the titles are truly wonderful and will likely inspire future work.

  (Bundles of ... Click on image to enlarge.)

The collaboration with Jeff is easily broken apart into "his boat" and "my fibers".  I've already snapped photos of another way to show the tiny, tied scrolls of vintage and new linens and lace.  

(Above:  Bundles of ..., detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The strangest thing about this transfer of materials into a vintage doll cradle is the fact that I don't like the title!  I scoured the pages of suggested titles ... when the fabric was inside the boat ... and none seemed right.  So, if anyone reading is inclined to suggest yet another name ... leave me a comment!

(Above:  Bundles of ..., detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I sort of like the "bundle" part of this title but I don't want to limit the way it is viewed by expressing an emotion, as in "bundle of joy" ... though, obviously, that's the phrase on which I was thinking.  I'm open to suggestions!

So ... now that I've made it through Vista Lights, gone to Washington, DC for a brief weekend, had Thanksgiving ... I'm back in my studio again.

(Above:  Stained Glass XXX ready to be melted with In Box XCIII.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I've already finished Stained Glass XXX. I framed In Box XCIII.  I've got Stained Glass XXXI finished too and Stained Glass XXXII in the process of being melted and Stained Glass XXXIII being stitched.  Hopefully by the end of the weekend I'll have all the work properly photographed! 

(Above:  Detail of In Box XCIII.  Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above:  In Box XCIII, framed.  Click on image to enlarge.)

(Above:  My studio ... getting messy again.  This is my palette of polyester stretch velvets waiting to be made into more faux-stained glass!)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Aylah, Decision Portrait Series

(Above:  Aylah, Decision Portrait Series.  25" x 19".  Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin with seat belt, beads and hand embroidery.  Some of the beads are very special ... ostrich eggshells ... as a symbol of life's fragile nature.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Although it had been just over two years since stitching the last Decision Portrait, I fell right into a rhythm with this newest piece in the series ... which now numbers 108.  I brought the transferred image, seat belt, white acrylic felt, a stash of beads and threads, and the Thai Stucco paper background with me to Houston.  I stitched the piece during the four day run of the International Quilt Festival ... in my solo exhibition at the George R. Brown Convention Center.  I blogged about it HERE

(Above:  Me stitching Aylah at the International Quilt Festival in Houston.)

The plan to stitch in public went perfectly.  It allowed interested people to ask about the series concept, touch the various layers of unique material, and ask about the photo transfer process.  Everyone was deeply touched.  Many brushed away tears.

(Above:  A class of fifteen year old girls from a nearby private school ... looking at Aylah's portrait after I gave a brief tour of my work.  Click on image to enlarge.)

One of the most wonderful parts of stitching in public was the chance to talk with visiting school groups.  On the third day an all-girls school class of fifteen-year-olds came by my exhibit.  The IQF tour guide asked me to speak.  I talked about being an artist, the series, and ended with Aylah, a beautiful high school sophomore and competitive team cheerleader and member of the school's popular step team.  I talked about her unfortunate, last decision.  Aylah didn't buckle up.  She accepted a ride from a teacher who didn't buckle up.  The distracted driver ran a stop sign ... and both were killed.  One other step team member did buckle up and walked away from a horrific accident.

(Above:  Aylah, detail.  Click on image to enlarge.)

While most of the people at the IQF looked at this piece as a "daughter or granddaughter", this school group had a totally different expression.  To them, Aylah was obviously a peer ... could have been a friend, a sister, or even themselves.  They all promised to remember ... to buckle up ... every time ... and to make sure they never accept a ride from a driver who isn't also wearing a seat belt.  For all I know, Aylah saved a life that day.  I hope she did.

(Above:  Nicholl Ransom, Aylah's mother, with the finished portrait.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I finished the portrait before the end of the IQF show but didn't blog about it until now.  Why?  Well, the first person I wanted to share it with was the fantastic person who made it all possible.  That person is Nicholl Ransom, Aylah's mother and a quilter!  We met at the Threads of Time Quilt Guild.  I gave a trunk show on my Grave Rubbing Art Quilt Series.  This work truly resonated with Nicholl.  She totally understood the powerful sense of remembrance in final resting places.  On her cell phone, she had photos of Aylah's grave and we talked about the tragedy.  I asked if she'd sign a model's release for her daughter's portrait and decision to become part of the series.  Nicholl answered "yes" right away.  I had the images and paperwork within forty-eight hours. 

(Above:  Aylah's grave.  Aylah (pronouced like Kayla but without the "K") was born on July 24, 1991 at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.  Her favorite color was baby blue.  Her school colors were serendipitously black and gold ... just like the beads on her portrait. The car accident occurred on November 30th, 2006 near East Dublin, GA where Aylah attended East Laurens High School.  Aylah lost her fight for life on December 6th ... donating her organs the next day.  Aylah's Facebook page is still active ... as an important way of remembering this special girl.)

In the past, I asked two other mothers of deceased, beloved children who also "didn't buckle up" if they'd be willing to have me stitch such a portrait.  Both earlier times, I was turned down nicely.  Neither mother wanted their child remembered this way.  Nicholl, however, is on a mission.  She said that if only one family was spared the nightmare from which she can never wake up, she wanted me to stitch Aylah's portrait and share it.  She wants to bring more awareness and prevent future tragedies.  

(Above:  The back side of the bench at Aylah's grave.  The stop sign is important.  The teacher driving the vehicle never even paused.  A distracted driver is not a safe one.  There were many decisions going on that fateful day ... and Aylah's final resting place is a monument to remembrance with the hope that others will be spared this tragedy.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Nicholl's Facebook timeline includes an important page ... with her very important message:

Insist on seat belts.
Set a good example.  Don't drink and drive.  Obey the speed limit.
Discuss what's helpful or distracting to the driver.
Monitor your teen's travel.
Know and trust the driver. 

(Above:  The Smithsonian American Museum of Art and Portrait Gallery.)

I shared Alyah's portrait with Nicholl yesterday.  We chatted about quilting, art, and life.  I would have shared it earlier ... but ... Steve and I have been very, very busy with Vista Lights and other commitments ... including a weekend trip to Washington, DC.  We dropped off a car load of antiquarian and used books at a specialty auction house in Falls Church, saw San Francisco Ballet's production of Romeo and Juliet (including Shane Wuertner as Paris ... one of Mathias' Kirov Academy classmates), and checked out Pro Panel booths at the Washington Craft Show.  Why?  Well, I've earned a merit award for booth rent at the upcoming Buyer's Market of American Craft wholesale show this coming February in Philadelphia.  Today we ordered "the booth".  (Oh ... we also really enjoyed all the high-end fine crafts on display too!).  We went to the National Museum of Women in the Arts to see High Fiber, a cutting edge show of six artist's fiber work and to the Smithsonian Museum of Art and Portrait Gallery ... which we always love! 


I saw this bumper sticker in a parking lot during the trip.  Now ... back to work!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New, large Faux Stained Glass pieces under construction

(Above: There should be some catchy caption for this photo ... something like "Fiber Arts Has Gone to the Dogs" or "Dog tired in the Studio".  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

This is Buster.  Buster's owner, my friend Jeff Donovan, has a studio across the atrium at Gallery 80808/Vistsa Studios from mine.  He and Nugget, Jeff's other dog, often spend the weekends "helping" us.  Perhaps our love of these two "mutts" contributed to our willingness to collaborate on a recent piece.

(Above:  Collaboration by Jeff Donovan and Susan Lenz.)

It is now on my circular pedestal in the atrium ... between our two studios.  The attached clipboards will allow people to suggest a title or to "vote" for their favorite of the two we suggested:  #1  A Day's Catch and #2 Unexplored Territories.  (There's voting on Facebook too!)  Tomorrow evening is Vista Lights, an annual art crawl in downtown Columbia.  The resident artists (all 13 of us) always have our group art reception during Vista Lights.  Galleries stay open from 5 - 9, the streets are closed for pedestrian traffic, the neighborhood Christmas tree is lit, etc.  At 8:45 Jeff and I will tally the votes and announce the official title ... christening our vessel with a couple bottles of cheap champagne.  It will be fun.

(Above:  Healthcare in America is Broke as seen at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios for Vista Lights 2012.)

Not far from the vessel is Healthcare in America is Broke.  (This piece was broken on Tuesday and transformed into the cube.  The video is HERE or HERE.)  All the artists at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios sign up for tasks in order to make our show a success.  We are ready ... as a group.  Individually, most of us are still straightening up our studios.  Right now, I'm most definitely NOT ready.  My studio is a DISASTER AREA!  I'm hoping to finish up the construction of three, large stained glass fiber pieces by the end of today ... and clean up before 5:00 tomorrow.  If I can get them to the "stitching phase", I'll be okay! 

(Above:  Large, faux-stained glass fiber piece stapled to stretcher bars and ready to be subjected to a soldering iron and a heat gun!)

Actually, one of the three is already stitched and is now stapled to stretcher bars, ready for me to poke holes in it with my soldering iron and melt it with a heat gun.  How did it get to this point?  Below is a progression!

First, I position my "to scale" sketch alongside my recycled black acrylic felt.  A layer of Wonder Under (Bond-a-Web) is ironed onto the felt.  (This felt used to be the packaging material for a kayak or canoe being shipped from a North Carolina manufacturer to River Runner, the local outdoors shop.  The owner has been donating it to me for years!  I'm very lucky!)

I try to follow my sketch ... but I freely make changes.  If you enlarge the photo above, you'll notice that the top isn't the same!  The shapes are cut from my stash of polyester stretch velvets.  All this material has Wonder Under already ironed to the reverse.  It sits in piles all over my studio floor ... giving me a good view to my "palette" and providing a nice bed for Buster, the dog!  This also accounts for the disaster area in my studio.  Very little of the floor is actually visible!

After I have the felt covered with a "lower" level" of polyester velvet shapes, I iron more Wonder Under over the entire surface ... but not just ordinary Wonder Under!  I paint bolts of Wonder Under with significantly watered down acrylic paints and inks.  The pigment stuck in the heat-activate glue transfers to the velvet ... distressing the garish color and surface of this cheap fabric.  (The photo above shows only some of the backing sheet of the previously painted Wonder Under removed from the surface.)

Some times the Wonder Under doesn't adhere completely.  I simply "patch" it with more Wonder Under.  This photo above shows places where I've put orange painted Wonder Under over "holes" in the first layer of Wonder Under.

Next comes touches of metallic foil.  The foil I'm currently using was also donated to me.  It was the leftovers from a bookbinder who uses the foil to stamp volume titles in metallic.  (Think "Holy Bible" on almost every edition ... metallic gold foil stamped into simulated or real leather!)

Then, I add more shapes of polyester stretch velvet ... layer upon layer ... adding the details.  Next comes more Wonder Under.  Why?

Well, the last thing I do to construct the faux-stained glass pieces is to add scraps of chiffon scarves.  The chiffon will only stick if there's an adhesive ... Wonder Under!  I like the chiffon for several reasons.  First, it adds a complexity to the coloring, subtly changing the way the rows of similar shapes look.  Second, it provides a smooth, non-plastic feeling surface to the top.  This allows my sewing machine to easily glide over the surface while doing the free motion machine embroidery.  Once the chiffon is on, I'm ready to stitch!

Running out of painted Wonder Under is a frequent problem.  I can't roll out a 20 yard bolt down the hallway at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios once the Vista Lights show opens ... so, I had to "stop everything" a few days ago to accomplish this task.

The Wonder Under likes to "curl up" ... which isn't really a problem ... but I like to keep it flat and fold it after it is dried.  Since the floor is only painted plywood, I can staple it every few feet directly to the floor while it dries. 

So ... in anticipation of "cleaning up" my studio for the art reception, I decided to construct two more pieces before stitching any of them.  Above is the next one ... more geometric than some of my others.  It was especially constructed in order that it could be hung as a horizontal.  I'm told that this orientation is popular with art consultants.  I guess I'll see at the upcoming Buyers Market of American Craft wholesale show in February.  That's where these pieces are headed.

Following the same basic steps, I got this geometric piece to this stage ... and then added the chiffon.  I set it aside.

I'm now working on this piece.  As soon as I've got it completely constructed and covered in a layer of chiffon scarf scraps, I'll clean up my "palette" and tidy my studio.  This MUST happen before 5:00 PM tomorrow, the opening reception for Vista Lights.  By 6:00 PM tomorrow, Steve will be manning my CLEAN studio.  I'll be up the street at City Art for the official announcement of the Jasper Magazine 2012 Artists of the Year.  I'm up for the "visual artist" award!  Thanks to everyone who voted last month!

I'm linking this post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays" ... a blog showing various fiber works in progress!  

Friday, November 09, 2012

Healthcare in America is Broke!

(Above:  Healthcare in America broken in the Mouse House parking lot.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

My main/fiber studio is at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios about a mile from Mouse House ... where I live, work, and also have a "second" studio for 3D assemblages.  Twice a year the resident artists at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios exhibit together ... once in the spring for an event called "Artista Vista" and once in the fall (the Thursday before Thanksgiving) called "Vista Lights".  I made a piece called Healthcare in America in my "home studio".  I blogged about it HERE.  On Wednesday morning I loaded up the six "Wet Sand" series pieces and Healthcare in America into our car and was about to transport the work to Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.  Then disaster!  Steve opened the back hatch ... which sent the piece to the pavement.

(Above:  Creating a Plexiglas cube.)

Most people think I would have screamed and cried and that Steve would have been mortified, apologetic, and compassionate.  We aren't normal people though!  By the time I got to the parking lot, Steve was laughing.  Sure I was a little shocked and I wasn't laughing, but I also wasn't angry or tearful.  Instead and almost immediately, Steve ran for the camera, started shooting and taking video.  We started brainstorming about a transformation. Healthcare in America is Broke became the appropriate, conceptual result.

The parking lot was swept into boxes.  Four 18" x 18" and two 18 1/2" x 18 1/2" pieces of quarter inch Plexiglas were ordered.  I went to work building a cube, ordering photos to be displayed alongside the recreation, and creating a video.  (The video can be seen on U Tube or on My Video Blog.)      

(Above:  Finishing Healthcare in America is Broke.)

The piece is now at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios.  Laura Spong, one of the other resident artists, is busy arranging the work for the upcoming Vista Lights show.  I'll have photos of the piece at the exhibition soon.  In the meantime, please enjoy the video.  The credits include:  Art by Susan Lenz and Damage, photos and video by Steve Dingman.  In typical gallery label fashion (title, artist, medium, price), the tag reads:  Healthcare in America is Broke, Susan Lenz, Mixed Media, Overpriced !!!

As this is Friday, I'm linking to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Friday" blog that documents "works in progress".  This piece was included several weeks ago ... but this is definitely another phase for this piece!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

International Quilt Festival (IQF) Houston 2012

(Above:  View from the second floor of the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston, Texas of the vendors area of the International Quilt Festival 2012.  Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

I've been intentionally creating art quilts for just four years.  I started as a result of my art residency at the MacNamara Foundation in Maine after learning that my Decision Portrait Series (on which I was working at the time) were, in fact, art quilts.  I sort of call the Decision Portrait Series my "accidental art quilts".  In Maine, I started making my first "intentional art quilts" ... the Grave Rubbing Art Quilt series.

Yet, even then, I'd heard about the "big show" in Houston.  It was described by the few quilters I knew as if "Mecca", larger than one's imagination dared envision, BIG ... like everything in Texas.  Well now I can safely say that the International Quilt Festival (IQF) lives up to and beyond this reputation.  I had an amazing experience from preview night (Halloween) right through Sunday, November 4th.  My mind is still reeling with inspiration, awe, and challenging ideas as to what, exactly, is an "art quilt", what, exactly is a "traditional quilt", where the wide, gray line is between these two and where, exactly, does my work and me fit into the scheme of this contemporary medium.  Big questions, big potential, big opportunity to explore my future in art and stitches.  

(Above:  View to downtown Houston from the convention center's second floor balcony.)

I've been to plenty of art exhibitions in the USA, UK, and in Europe ... some in major museums, some in prestigious galleries, some in small town church basements or community spaces, and others in all sorts of alternative locations featuring local or even international artists.  I like art shows ... regardless of media.  I attend many.  Like most artists, I've scratched my head wondering what a juror was thinking when awarding a particular work ... whether in agreement or disagreement.  I've seen pieces in shows that seemed "better" than the "Best of Show".  I've been rejected from shows to which I later went and saw accepted work of questionable merit.  I've been awarded prizes at shows in which I thought other works were more deserving.  These scenarios, however, had nothing to do with my impressions of IQF and the juried categories and special exhibits.

(Above:  Detail of America, Let It Shine by Sherry Reynolds of Laramie, Wyoming.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I have no idea how the juror(s) selected the awards ... because so many pieces were simply beyond my comprehension in terms of quality .... quality design, materials, craftsmanship, and concept.  The work in the IQF's "World of Beauty" was down right exceptional.  This area alone was more than the price of admission and one could easily have spent the entire four days wandering from one masterpiece to another.

(Above:  America, Let It Shine by Sherry Reynolds of Laramie, Wyoming.  This quilt is a tribute to American and its foundations and values, with the hope that they will guide us to a brighter future.  The 5,121 Swarovski crystals represent the words of the Constitution, Star Spangled Banner, Pledge of Allegiance, and the age of the country.  The 13 original colonies are represented with thirteen points on the outer blue rays; the ring of 50 starts represent the states.  Parts of the Gettysburg Address, Preamble to the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence are also quilted.  Techniques:  Paper piecing, hand applique, fused applique with machine finished edges, free motion quilting.  Materials:  Cottton, batik, and silk fabrics; Superior, Hemingworkn, Aurifil, Gutermann, and Kimono Silk threads; Hobb's Cotton and Hobbs Tuscany wool batting, Swarovski crystals.  Original Design. Click on image to enlarge.)

So ... here's the piece that won the HandiQuilter "Best of Show" award of $10,000.  AMAZING.  The description above was copied from the information label that was pinned to the black pipe and drape system beside the lovely, large ribbon.

(Above: America, Let It Shine by Sherry Reynolds of Laramie, Wyoming.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Throughout the special exhibitions area there were stationed docents with white gloves who, upon request, revealed the beautiful stitching on the reverse of any quilt on display.  The docents who oversaw the top prize winning quilts generally had conversations with the artists before engaging the public and all their questions.  I was able to witness several of these "training sessions" before the show opened at 10 AM.  Why?  Well, I had an "exhibitors badge".  It was a distinct advantage for walking the floor ... mostly alone, quiet, and uncrowded.  Most of my photos came from these early morning walks. 

(Above:  Prometheus by Ferret of North Harrow, Middlesex, UK.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Occasionally I'd remember to shot a photo with other people inside the lens' frame ... for contrast and a sense of scale ... to give a better impression of the overall atmosphere of this show. 

(Above:  Prometheus by Ferret of North Harrow, Middlesex, UK.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Occasionally, I'd shot an overall shot and a detail or two as well.  Since returning from Houston, 've created a Flickr! set of the images I captured.  Almost every quilt is labeled ... not just with the title and the artist's name but with all the information that was included on the signage.  Why?  Well, I want to remember these pieces, my impressions, and the information!  Also, I type fast, so I can manage this.  The Flickr! set is HERE.  There are approximately 70 individual quilts in this collection ... with full information.  (Two don't have information.  I forgot to snap their sign's photos.  Another one is probably wrong ... so if anyone sees a mistake or knows the correct data, please let me know!)

(Above:  Fifteen by Camilla Watson of Wellington, New ZealandClick on image to enlarge.)

So ... a few of these pieces are included in this blog post.  They are among the visual thrills I experienced during the four days.  Above is Fifteen by Camilla Watson.  I was struck by the success of this miniature quilt.  I'm not generally a fan of digitally printed image transfers.  They generally leave me with the impression of being "artificial".  My mind says, "Yeah, yeah, yeah ... take a photo, print it out, quilt it ... not very original ... not very interesting."  I generally don't like the surface of computer generated fabrics either.  They look like "computer print outs" to me.  Yet, I couldn't keep my eyes off this piece.  The blend of this very realistic face through the quilt-enhanced hair and into the abstract, quilt background worked on every level.  This piece reminded me of so many female portraits by Gustav Klimt ... where a beautiful, natural, realistic, porcelain-skinned face gives dimension to a fabulously attired though flatly created body on an ornate background.  (Think Judith I or the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.) 

(Above: Columbine by Sue Reno.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I was happy to view pieces by Sue Reno.  Cynotype is a photography method I watched professional photographer Lisa M. Robinson do while at the MacNamara Foundation four years ago.  I've been reading on-line about "sun prints" and wondering if they aren't very much the same as this century old, chemical process.  I wanted to see Sue's work "in person" because she was the juror for the SAQA I'm Not Crazy exhibition and because she sent me a nice email message months ago saying I ought not be nervous about going to Houston.  (I was still nervous ... but looking at this "garden" was relaxing!)  

(Above:  Double Vision, Twist Tie Quilt # 6 by Amy Orr.  Click on image to enlarge.)

A highlight (possibly the most important one for me personally) was seeing two of Amy Orr's pieces.  Once in the area near these two works, I made a beeline path straight to them.  AMAZING!  I'm not very good at remembering names, but the signage did trigger a hazy recognition.  Of course, I couldn't remember WHY the name Amy Orr was familiar until I later googled it!  Of course ... I've seen and admired her work on the pages of art magazines and on important fiber websitesShe was the director of FiberPhiladelphia 2012 ... and a juror for at least one or two important exhibitions into which my work wasn't accepted!

The pieces were amazing.  The contemporary concepts and materials were constructed using very traditional quilting designs.  Here the lines of "art" and "tradition" are challenged most successfully.  These works have me thinking about some of the things I've read in on-line forums and heard from other "art quilters".  This is the sort of work that ignores categories and opinions.  It is work that is important to me on so many levels ... and I'll not forget Amy Orr's name ever again ... and I'll enter a juried exhibition if she's a juror too!

(Above:  Second Wind by Katherin Knauer.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Yes, my head was frequently spinning with concept and media questions ... with those often discussed on-line topics:  WHAT IS AN ART QUILT?  WHAT IS A TRADITIONAL ART?  There have been threads discussing "traditional" quilting". "arts vs. crafts", the new SAQA definition for "art quilts" and what title those working in these media should call themselves ... all sorts of other ways to categorize the medium and the work.  I seem to stay in a state of puzzlement.

Here is a fabulous piece directly referencing the traditional Log Cabin and Barn Raising patterns ... but the concept is BRILLIANT and the fabrics printed in order to make this important statement are simply gorgeous!  I know that this is undeniably "an art quilt".  I love the fact that it directly references the traditional in order to drive home its concept.  PERFECT!

Yet, I also saw a lot of work (generally in areas where photography wasn't permitted) that appeared much more "traditional" to me.  I know that these were also "art quilts" ... but in my mind, translating a personal photo into an art quilt using all sorts of modern materials and computer programs in order convey "a love of nature", a favorite "portrait", or fulfill the requirements of a "special exhibition" theme can't hold a candle to a piece like this!  (This is just my opinion!  I'm a conceptually driven artist!  For me, the materials, inspiration, elements of design, and just about any other factor comes behind the reason for making the work!)  

Above:  Second Wind by Katherin Knauer.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Provided statement:  In Second Wind the theme of wind energy is illustrated in each print by images of wind turbines or dandelion seeds blowing in the wind, or electrical devices such as light bulbs, electric fans or power cords.  Wind is further represented by the color blue, and electricity by the color yellow.  In juxtaposing a medium conventionally associated with comfort and warmth against dynamic surface imagery, I am imbuing the quilt with personal meaning and the energy of an unexpected fusion.

(Above:  Make You Happy by Brigit Aubeo Bell-Lloch of Girona, Catalunya, Spain.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Please don't think I'm against using photos for inspiration ... not at all!  I was blown away by Make You Happy by Brigit Aubeo Bell-Lloch.  The choice of materials, the sense of nostalgia/time/memory/universality, of personal presence, of strength of character, and the overwhelming power of this work is truly brilliant ... and much, much more than simply taking an old photo of one's mother and making an art quilt out of the lines and shapes!

(Above:  My Gentle Giant, Ben by Patti Blair.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The same goes for this top prize winner art quilt.  It is much more than the translation of an image.  I had to look at this piece from both sides and still wondered if it were indeed flat.  It was.  The three-dimensional quality, the in-your-face stare, the "humanity", and the power of this work challenged viewers.   It spoke of wildness and tameness, the ability to feel love and kindness, and silently it spoke of extinction and lost environments.

(Above:  Ear of Rice by Sachiko Sano of Kyoto, Kyoto, Japan.  Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

Blurring the lines of old and new, I feel in love with Ear of Rice, a modern arrangement with traditional stitching ... a collection of vintage and antique kimonos.  My Flickr! set includes a detail photo.

(Above:  Detail of Blackberry Summer by Theresa Fetch.)

There really isn't a great way to capture the details of many of these pieces.  Each quilt possessed something special.  I particularly liked the use of Shiva paintstiks on Blackberry Summer by Theresa Fetch.  I've seen oil sticks, especially the metallic ones, used on various works ... whether on fabric or on gessoed stretch canvas.  I generally don't like it ... but, this one was PERFECT ... so well blended and for such a strong affect.  I didn't even realize how the surface was achieved until I read the label!

(Above:  Not Forgotten by Peggy Brown.)

I was excited to see inspiration from a cemetery in Not ForgottenI wasn't really sure my favorite theme for art quilting was an inspiration for anyone else with needle and thread!  It felt like a kindred spirit.

(Above:  Hallowed Ground by Deborah Bein.)

Walking around the fifty or so special exhibits also meant bumping into work by people with familiar names ... like Deb Bein, a new email/SAQA/Facebook friend ... whose discharged materials perfectly suited this sober piece memorializing the tenth anniversary of September 11th.  (Deb ... I got so engrossed that I forgot to snap a photo of the sign!)

(Above:  Positano by Daniela Marco and Arnoldi Sarzi-Sartori of Milan, Italy.)

The International Quilt Festival is also amazing from the stand point of global participation and attendance.  I met people from South Africa, Australia, Norway, Canada, Japan, Brazil, all over Europe, and all over North America.  The work ... including this very three-dimensional and very, very large piece called Positano ... made me appreciate the work involved in packaging, shipping, and installing such an exhibition.  
(Above:  Green Blue Planet Under Siege by Marja Matiisen.)

The global itself was the subject of some of the works too ... like this piece!  There's a "full view" on the Flickr! site showing that the recycled jeans also form a feathery sphere.  It includes a statement on the dangers of "having too much stuff" and it was the second place winner of the Open European Quilt Exhibition as well as that event's "People's Choice".

(Above:  Hapa (left) by Kathy Quinn Arroyo of Gig Harbor, Washington and (right) Long Fong (Chinese Dragon and Phoenix) Ming Hse of Woodside, South Australia, Australia.

This corner of "World of Beauty" certainly lives up to the theme!  It's an Hawaiian inspired quilt made by a lady in Washington State beside a Chinese inspired quilt made in Australia.  Both were dazzling!

(Above:  Hope by Yoshiko Miyamoto of Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Ken, Japan.)

Talk about DAZZLING!  This piece was simply amazing.  The sense of space, motion, and color was grand!

(Above:  Hot Africa by Janneke de Vries Bodzinga of Kollumerzwaag, Friesland, The Netherlands.)

 Not to be outdone in the "dazzle" department as well as the "international mix", this art quilt won a top award ... sizzling sun stitched in The Netherlands about a memory from Kenya.

(Above:  In My Mind by Eun-Suk Lee of Cheong-Ju-Si, Chung-Buk, Republic of Korea.)

I know I'm not the only one with puzzling thoughts about art quilting.  Eun-Suk Lee's In My Mind includes a statement confessing tangled thoughts as well.  She's trying hard to find ways to include her native Korean motifs and meanings into a medium that is not traditional in her country.  Personally, I think she's quite successful!

(Above:  Quilted Yurt by Linzi Upton.)

Another quite successful blend of diverse cultures is this quilted yurt by Scottish artist Linzi Upton.


Both the interior and the exterior were beautiful.  The construction was amazing too.

(Above:  Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative booth.)

Because I was at the convention every day well over an hour before the doors opened, I was able to look at several exhibits without anyone walking in front of my camera.  Yet, other exhibitors were there too ... including a fantastically fun crew at the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative booth.  One morning they were trying to take a time lapse video ... or at least the very end of one!  They were trying to walk back and forth in front of their area and bow.  They needed someone to say "click" every time the camera shot a photo.  That person became me!  Here's a click to the video they made!  It is VERY CUTE!

(Above:  The Husband's Lounge.)

The Husband's Lounge was a nice touch for this exhibit.  Other amenities included plenty of general seating areas, places for tired quilters to rest.  FedEx had a shipping office in the building ...  near a Starbucks.  Quilt's Inc. had well placed information stands outside the main show but also plenty of booths selling programs (just ONE DOLLAR for an amazing booklet).  Please note that this exhibit is more than four city blocks in length!

(Above:  Donna Skvarla, quilt appraiser.)

Other people were working too ... like quilt appraiser Donna Skvarla.

News-styled quilt programs were also being taped.

There were plenty of booths that were selling affordable quilted works ... like Pokey Bolton's Pet Postcard Project to benefit Houston-based animal shelters.  (Please note ... photos taken over an hour before the show opened!)


Another important booth was the new Texas Quilt Museum's space ... where affordable quilted art was being sold along with all sorts of souvenir items.  Information brochures were plentiful. Charity is important at this exhibit and the causes were so very, very appropriate.

(Above:  SAQA's exhibition area.)

I'm almost thankful that there were large expanses where photography wasn't permitted.  It would have taken at least another day to process all the photos I would have liked to have snapped!  Two such exhibits were in the SAQA area ... Seasonal Palette on the interior walls and Sense of Scale on the outside.  It was rewarding and intellectually stimulating to see these shows.  I'd followed them from "call-for-entry" and excited email announcements of inclusion to weekly messages from SAQA featuring the work.

One evening Quilt's, Inc.'s founder, the amazing and generous Karey Bresenhan, hosted a SAQA reception at the Hyatt Hotel.  Karey is the one seated.  There was even "show and tell".

(Above:  In attendance were several "big name" art quilters and also the "SAQA leader", executive director Martha Sielman ... seated in the front center, in profile.)

(Above:  SAQA Vice president Kris Sazaki at the podium, Karey Bresenham is seated, Sheila Frampton-Cooper's curly hair at the right.)

I was rather nervous meeting many of these important people whose work and efforts I've admired for the past few years.

(Above:  Mix and Mingle on the third floor of the convention center.)

On another evening there was a "Mix and Mingle" with door prizes.

Some of the quilters had obviously "shopped 'til they dropped" !

(Above:  Vendor area of the convention center.  View from the second floor.)

Now anyone who knows me knows that I'm NOT A SHOPPER.  In fact, I spent very little time in the vendor area but heard that it was often so filled that elbows were used for navigating the aisles.  I didn't buy anything ... this is simply too much ... too much overload ... but a very pretty view.  From the brief stroll in this massive space, I'm pretty sure EVERYTHING a quilter could ever want ... whether traditional, art, or an explorer of the medium from an outside interest ...was here!  I heard that the prices were good too!

The retailers I talked to were very, very pleased.  Sales were good.  Why not?  There was a mobile bank in the middle of the food court!

(Above:  Food court for the IQF ... hours before the doors opened!)

Quilters really don't have to leave the building while at the IQF show.  The food court provided quite a selection and plenty of seats.

Will I return to Houston?  I honestly don't know.  This experience introduced me to a new venue and to many new opportunities into which I could submit work.  I do most sincerely want to submit work to future IQF shows.  To have a piece hang with this sort of company is truly an honor  There were more quilt categories than I could possible keep track of and more exhibits than I anticipated.  The potential for my work seemed strong.  This year's show was truly wonderful.  I learned so much.  I'm still processing my thoughts and impressions.  Time will tell what I'll figure out ... how I might return or at least have a piece represent me!