Sunday, July 30, 2006

Affinities & Influence

What a treat to visit the Greg Kucera Gallery in downtown Seattle to view a selection of quilts from Gee's Bend together with prints by Gee's Bend artists Mary Lee Bendolph and Louisana Bendolph and a collection of other works influenced by the tradition of patchwork and quilting.

The workmanship on the quilts was rather crude but the design sensibilities more than compensated:

This "Bricklayer" quilt by Mary Lee Bendolph is made from corduroy. The wale of the fabric creates a whole new dimension:

This quilt top is made entirely from labels:

Today's BBQ party is "all about me" (sorry Tommy) so I best log off and go meet my guests.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

It's A Small World...

So I made it to Seattle and it is way cooler than eastern Washington. Ahh, blessed relief. I am staying with some friends who are very close to two of my host sisters from exchange student days. I could go into details but it would sound like a soap opera. It is great to be here. Tomorrow we are having a BBQ all together but first I get to see some of the quilts from Gees Bend which are currently on display in Seattle. This is an unexpected but welcome surprise.

Julia, a friend of my hosts, told them about the exhibition. Here is Julia's blog and website - do her paintings have a familiar feel about them??!!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Chilling Out

I am currently in Sunnyside, Washington State where I was a Rotary exchange student in 1983. The city is living up to its name with temperatures hovering around 100 F. Indeed the entire country has been in the grip of a heatwave since I arrived earlier in the month. Air conditioning brings welcome relief and I have been taking some quiet time to visit with host families and friends. Only tonight have I been able to access a computer with broadband, hence a belated blog update.

Thanks to classmate Nita for sending through these pictures of me with my compositions at the Crow barn. Something tells me that I like to talk with my hands these days (comes from living with an Italian?):

In this photo, I look like I am doing a haka (Maori war dance):

After a marathon journey from Columbus to San Francisco (via Washington Dulles) I visited a dear friend in Sacramento who recently gave birth to Erik:

I then flew from San Francisco to Washington State via Portland. There were some fantastic crop formations as I flew into Portland and I was kicking myself that my camera was snug in my backpack in an overhead locker. This shot as I flew out of Portland was not as compelling:

but I loved these irrigation/crop circles that I saw on my flight into Pasco:

I love the dusky colours too.

Tomorrow I head over the mountains to Seattle

Monday, July 24, 2006

More photos from the Crow Barn

On the last afternoon of our workshop with Nancy, each student displayed their compositions for the week and discussed some of the things they had learned in the process. We had all been most productive and there were some beautiful quilt tops on exhibition. As I didn't ask permission, I will not post any pictures of the work of other students but here is the balance of my output.

I enjoyed making these shapes from the fabrics I created and think I could do something fun with more repetition:

These unsewn units were made with stacks, strategic cutting and rotations. Some of the shapes change/disappear with the seam allowances but it's a great exercise in serendipity:

The final exercise involved making a black and white composition and then recreating a more exaggerated version in colour. I did not complete this exercise, partly because I made my composition so BIG and partly because I disappeared to the Post Office to dispatch my 40 odd pounds of fabric on a slow boat to Australia:

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Or rather, the exhilaration and the exhaustion. My workshop with Nancy is over; the adrenalin levels have dropped; and after a week of early starts, late nights, restless sleep and intense days, I am feeling somewhat fatigued. It's going to take me a while to process all of the information and feedback from this week. And since I will be spending 12+ hours in transit getting to San Francisco today, I have plenty of time to start thinking about it. Nevertheless, here are some preliminary thoughts:

1) The Crow barn is a superior facility - we had a large class of 20+ students but we all had good light and plenty of room to spread out;

2) Margaret, our personal chef, cooked fabulous meals each day for 45+ people in little more than a conventional kitchen. Our workshop output would have been severely compromised without refuelling from Margaret!

3) Apart from a couple of throwaway comments about favourite colour combinations, Nancy talked very little about colour this week. Instead, we were left to our own devices. I have not worked with solid colour fabrics before and tried to experiment with some different palettes. My results looked different from my other quilts and were not entirely successful but I have lots of ideas that I want to try out at home; and

4) When I look over my portfolio of quilts, I realise that I have only ever made one asymmetrical, abstract quilt that did not involve repetition of a block or unit. This simple quilt was from a long time ago:

No wonder that one of Nancy's comments was that I need to work on my composition skills. Food for thought...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Improvising with Nancy

I arrived in Ohio safely (no more escalator episodes) and have now completed two days of my workshop with Nancy. The days are full and exhilarating so there is not much opportunity to linger on the computer back at the hotel. Nevertheless, here are some photos:

This "composition" is from one of the black and white line exercises that we did on day one:

The next task was to isolate one unit from each exercise and create a 9-plex composition in colours of our choosing:

I left the hotel in the morning with a soft neutral palette in mind. My final colour choice I suspect reflects that I haven't had a decent night's sleep since leaving home and was feeling kind of wired! This is not a restful quilt:

So I made a few extra units that are not so wild (or "funky" as Nancy kindly put it):

I finally slept well last night so let's see what today brings.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Pleasure of [Being] Company

My flight to America was somewhat uncomfortable owing to a foot injury that I sustained en route to the airport. (Acute embarrassment precludes me from divulging the precise circumstances of my accident - suffice to say that if an escalator is going UP, one should not try to go DOWN.) I spent much of the flight nursing an ice pack. This seemed to have the desired effect as I arrived in Annapolis with minimal bruising and sufficiently mobile to join the activities that my exceedingly gracious and hospitable hosts have lined up for me.

The first day involved motoring in a replica mini skipjack owned by the Maritime Museum of Annapolis to the dock in the historic downtown. We undertook of an orientation of the very human scale city and state buildings before returning to a folk concert of "waterman" songs and crewing the boat back to its berth. An authentic Chesapeake Bay experience. Today we are off to visit quilt stores so I am being thoroughly spoilt.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

re-fabricating difference - call for entries

In less than two hours I start my journey to the east coast of the United States. I've never been to Annapolis but I hear that it is a pretty town. Check back for photos later.

In the meantime, you may recall the 're-fabricating retrospective' contemporary quilts on exhibition at the Sydney Quilt Show this year. Entries for the next re-fabricating exhibition ("re-fabricating difference") close on Friday 13 October 2006:
In a world becoming globalised, how is difference made
visible, respected and enjoyed?
For your assistance, you can find a 149KB pdf file of the entry form here.
I understand that entry is restricted to Australian quilters only (one of the conditions of funding from the Cultural Partnerships program). If you have any other queries, please direct them to Annabelle Solomon at:

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Firefox Update

Problem solved - I looked under Tools:Options:Content:Images: Exceptions in firefox and found that photo blogger images were being blocked. Why? this is a mystery to me but I removed the block and everything is good again.

Where have all the pictures gone?

If any of you use Mozilla Firefox as your browser, have you noticed that all the blogger-uploaded photos are missing from blogspot blogs? Or is it just me? If I use internet explorer, I can see all the images just fine but with firefox all I can see is the text and the images that are linked from other urls. I haven't tried rebooting and I'm too busy preparing to go away to fuss with computer stuff right now. But I thought I would see if anyone else had the same experience...

Monday, July 10, 2006

Time to Pack

Only two more sleeps until my great quilting adventure. On Wednesday morning, I head off to America to attend a 5-day improvisations workshop with Nancy Crow. I will also take this opportunity to catch up with friends in Annapolis, San Francisco, Sacramento, Sunnyside (eastern Washington State where I was an exchange student in 1983) and Seattle. In all, I will be away for three weeks so my blog posts may be a little irregular for the balance of July.

In preparing for my trip, it has been interesting to read recent comments on the quiltart list and to read the blogs of Robin and Tommy, both of whom have attended workshops with Nancy this summer. I don't promise to be as forthcoming in showing my workshop output online but I am looking forward to critique and feedback from Nancy and my fellow students. I'm also looking forward to being reunited with the enormous pile of fabric that I purchased when I was in America at Christmas time and shipped onto the Crow "barn" in Ohio. ( I completely understand the philosphy of having a comprehensive palette of fabric at your fingertips for the workshop but the logistics can be a little challenging when you are travelling from half way around the world!)

On the subject of packing, I wonder what the occupants of this nest took with them before abandoning home:

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Dreaming Their Way: Aboriginal Women Painters

In quilt blog circles lately, I've noticed some thought provoking discussions about the quality of art presented at art festivals (see Lisa's posts on 7 and 8 July for example); how art quilts are not always "good" art (see Rayna's post); and inspirational non-quilting (gasp!) blogs (see Dijanne's post).

Although I never studied art history, have no formal training in the arts, and can't draw to save myself, I do derive pleasure and inspiration from other visual mediums. For readers living on the East Coast of the United States, I draw your attention to the Dreaming Their Way: Aboriginal Women Painters exhibition which is on at the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington DC until 24 September and then at the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College from 7 October to 10 December. As noted on the Hood Museum website:
This exhibition features intensely colorful canvases and extremely intricate paintings on bark by Australian Indigenous women painters from communities throughout the continent, highlighting the work of thirty-two artists who have made important contributions to contemporary painting. The art draws upon ancient stories—or dreamings—and symbols, as well as each artists' deep connection to the land. It is a link to ancient tradition that makes Australian Indigenous contemporary art so unique. This is the first major presentation of contemporary art by Australian Indigenous women in the United States.
In total there are 78 works by 33 artists including:
The visual impact of these works is undeniable and I'm trying to work out whether I can squeeze in a side trip to Washington DC when I am in Annapolis next week...

The Butterfly Effect

I free-motion quilt with all over patterns partly because I wobble too much for precision quilting and partly because I can't be bothered marking my quilt tops. Nevertheless, from time to time, I like to dabble in more detailed quilting motifs and this is when "back to front" quilting comes into its own. This is where you use the shapes on your backing fabric as a quilting guide. For example, take this butterfly fabric:

and this is how the quilting shows up on the front (click to see the larger image):

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Day in the City

Yesterday I travelled into Sydney for our monthly Guild committee meeting. I took this opportunity to hand deliver my quilts for the forthcoming North Shore Craft Exhibition. Thus you could spot me easily on the train - I was the one with a bundle of quilts under one arm and some hanging rods under the other. Funny how everyone gave me a wide berth.

After delivering the quilts, I popped into Dymocks bookstore. I went in looking for a guide/ reference/ resource book for voluntary organisations and came out with:

Now I know this is old hat to North American readers - Diane featured this book in her blog sidebar months ago - but this is the first time that I have seen the book in Australia anywhere, let alone in a mainstream book store. Plus it was only A$39.95 for 512 pages of splendid contemporary quilts. And, thanks to some store rewards credits, I got it for $32. (OK, this is when I admit that I took the only copy on the shelf and I didn't buy the book for the guild library but hopefully the store can get more copies in.)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Day in the Country

Yesterday, two friends and I set off for Wollombi to view an exhibition of contemporary textiles and 'everyday exotica' by The Facets: Jan Clark, Susan Cooper, Kathy Hoipo, Marcia Hoipo and Jude New. Once again, I was drawn to the works of Jan Clark:

These pieces by Marcia Hoipo also caught my attention:

After we had admired the exhibition, we took a stroll down a dusty country lane:

and (beyond a squashed and stinky kangaroo!) found a winerywith some tasty wines and some interesting sculptures:

More thoughts on Bali Batiks

As Helen has commented, highly patterned or multi-coloured bali batik fabrics can be challenging to work with. Like many large scale prints that do not "read" as a single value, batik patterns can be just too busy particularly in complex quilt designs. But wild patterns can be tamed to good effect in simple, large pieced quilts and by incorporating high contrast solids to rest the eye. As in Taranaki Solstice for example:

Some friends and I are off to the Facets contemporary textiles exhibition at Wollombi today. If photography is permitted, I hope to share some images with you later.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

My Bali Love Affair

I've never been to Bali but I do enjoy working with fabrics that share the same name. My love affair started when I decided to make this Karen Stone hibiscus quilt design for my my sister Chantel:

As my sister Amy will testify, I traipsed all over the [State] Victorian countryside, in my quest for bali and batik fabrics which are not readily available in Australia. (These days I know better and would go straight to Chandlers Cottage, equilter or Hancocks of Paducah.)

I like bali/batiks for their textured, hand-dyed appearance and the range of colours available. I'm not so keen on the "muddy" variety of batik fabrics but often even these can be redeemed by strategic colour placement. For example, the dowdy batik used in my fishnet quilt was positively transformed by combining it with black blocks:

Shelina has some interesting thoughts on buying fabric on her blog together with some useful insights for first time quilters. On the subject of beginner quilters, I found that baby quilts were an ideal way to learn and experiment with new techniques. You'll be pleased to know that my sister Amy was not too traumatised by the experience of our road trip being hijacked by a quilt shop hop and she later made this quilt:

And lest you are worrying that Amy does not have one of my quilts, she actually has TWO. I was already well advanced with Amy's China Blues when Amy got married and I got to indulge may passion for bali fabrics all over again in the Confetti Wedding Quilt:

Monday, July 03, 2006

Dunedin Dreaming

There is a discussion about college/university quilts on one of the lists that I belong to so I thought that I would share some pictures of a quilt that I made for my youngest sister Delia. She is studying at the University of Otago in Dunedin in the chilly south of the South Island of New Zealand. This quilt is made from brushed cotton flannels and backed with polar fleece (no batting) and is wonderfully snuggly:

Saturday, July 01, 2006

New Look

I'm meant to be working on some quilts. Instead I'm playing on the computer designing some new business cards and other promotional materials to take with me to America and to hand out at the forthcoming North Shore Craft Exhibition (see side bar for more details). Here's an early prototype: