review: Modern Roots

Modern Roots

Modern Roots: Today’s Quilts from Yesterday’s Inspiration by Bill Volckening

One of the charms of vintage and antique quilts is that they were often made by hand without the use of rulers and rotary cutters, so they aren’t as technically perfect as some quilts made today. They can feel more person-made and the connection to the quilt-maker can feel stronger. This book takes inspiration from those handmade quilts and shows how to make your own, whether you choose to make it using contemporary techniques or not. Many of the dozen patterns here will be familiar to quilters: Log Cabin, Lone Star, Stacked Bars, Barn Raising, and many others. Each pattern features a full page, full color photo of a vintage or antique quilt along with notes about its origin; a materials list; and instructions for cutting, construction, assembly, and finishing. Diagrams are provided for piecing and assembly. A smaller version is also provided for each pattern. Only two of the original quilts are tied but note that they can be finished however the maker desires.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Galesburg Charleston Memorial District Library through the awesome MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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back to the fling

Last year at the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival quilt show, they offered attendees an opportunity to participate in a contest at this year’s show. Entries in the 2015 Spring Fling, as it’s called, are required to utilize the square of fabric they handed out in 2014, fit the Spring Fling theme in some way, be started after 4/24/2014 and complete by 4/24/2015, be 60-100″ in perimeter, and be able to be hung on the wall easily. To me, this sounded like the perfect opportunity for an art quilt!

I imagine that most of the entries will quite different from the quilt I’m making, but I’m okay with that. They’ll be giving prizes for best use of color, best workmanship in piecing/applique, and best portrayal of the Spring Fling 2015 theme. I’m not particularly hot for a prize, just for the opportunity to participate in a public venue.

I’m still partway through making my current (larger) quilt WIP, but it’s getting to the point where it’s really big and difficult to spread out in the limited space we have, so it’s on a break right now. This project, though, is small and more manageable and I’ve been feeling itchy to be sewing again.

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

Unsurprisingly, my rough plan for this quilt came together pretty quickly, involves a Blythe-esque figure on a natural background, and has references to classical artwork and feminism. My theme/title for the quilt is Regeneration, since that is a major theme of the spring season in life as well as in art. I did my usual quick-and-dirty photo editing to make myself a general outline to follow, though of course as always I am changing the plan as I go.

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

For some sections, I trace the outline to make myself pattern pieces and for others I just free-hand cut things out. I’m getting increasingly comfortable with free-handing things the more I do it.

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

You can see that I changed from the original arms-up pose to having the figure holding a tray. My thought process was this: eggs are an ancient symbol of spring, so I’d like to include them somehow. However, making an egg clearly an egg and not a rock or something else similar is tricky, so maybe I could go about it a different way. This led me to thinking about deviled eggs and that led me to think of vintage recipe cards with lurid illustrations of things like deviled eggs, which led me to decide to have the figure holding a tray of deviled eggs (and possibly other things).

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

I got this far over the weekend! Not bad for five or six hours of planning and working.

Sewing again! WIP: Regeneration art quilt

The figure will be wearing a crown of butterflies, inspired by this painting. I was originally thinking a floral crown or wreath, because that’s another classical symbol of spring, but then I saw this painting and the butterfly idea grabbed me. Hopefully next weekend I’ll have some time to work on the crown, the eggs, and some further elements I haven’t added in yet.

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Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival Quilt Show

Last weekend we went to the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival to check out the syrup, arts and crafts, and quilt show. I had considered entering a quilt myself, but didn’t get to it in time to make the deadline. Next year!

Odd as it seems, despite having lived in the area for close to 15 years in the 90s and 00s, this was my first time attending this festival. We got some syrup, of course, but skipped the really, really, really long lines for the all-you-can-eat pancake and sausage meal.

The quilt show was small but a nice mix of types of quilts by a few different quilters (some quilters had multiple pieces on display). As usual, I was most interested in the original quilts, but those made from commercial patterns were also very nicely made.

Some of the quilts had been made long ago, in some cases by older or now-deceased relatives of the person who entered the quilt in the show.

Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival quilt show

This one, which was one of the largest on display (96×68″), was hand-pieced by the owner’s mother, who used fabrics from the owner’s childhood. The dimensional quality of this design is really impressive.

Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival quilt show

I liked the nature/fantasy subject of this quilt (62×46″) by Carol Griffin. It is called Flower Belles and I suppose one could see the women as just that, but I thought they seemed to be flower fairies. I’ve been reading the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter series by Susan Wittig Albert, which has probably put fairies at the forefront of my mind.

Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival quilt show

I’m interested in portraits and depictions of figures in quilts and this was a nice example of a relatively simple approach that is realistic but still fun.

Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival quilt show

Another one of my favorites was this dog quilt, titled Moochas Pooches (57×46″).

Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival quilt show

While of course I would’ve liked it even more if it had included a Boston Terrier, this pug was cute enough to almost make up for it.

Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival quilt show

The smallest piece (10×8″) on display was this framed fabric art, titled Lake Michigan and made by Carrie Dunn. To make it, she used raw edge applique, a technique that I have been reading a lot about since seeing it used on some of the art quilts in Lenore Crawford’s exhibit at Art Reach in February.

Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival quilt show

One of my favorites of the day was this horse wall hanging (36×47.5″), pieced by Carol Griffin. I’m not particularly interested in horses as a subject, but the piecing and construction of the quilt caught my eye.

Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival quilt show

I like the combination of fabrics the artist used, as well as the variety of stitch techniques she used to create the impression of texture and movement.

One thing I found notable was that, with the exception of the tied and vintage or antique quilts, very few of the pieces on display had been quilted by the same person who pieced them. I suppose that most of the folks doing the piecing take their quilt sandwich to a professional machine quilter and pay them to do the machine quilting. I’m not opposed to this on principle, but I definitely feel like, for me, it would take something away from the overall achievement of having completed a quilt. The same is true for using pre-made quilt patterns, as I prefer to make it up myself, or at least make up most of it in the cases where I might use a well-known quilt block design as inspiration. I want to do it all myself! (This is probably why it takes me ages to finish anything.)

Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival quilt show

One of the things that I was excited to see was the chance to participate in a contest in next year’s show! The challenge is called Spring Fling 15. It cost $1 to sign up, which provided a small piece of fabric that should be incorporated into the entry. The finished piece can be any shape and size as long as the perimeter is between 60 and 100″ total. All the entries will be displayed in next year’s festival and awards will be given for the best representation of the theme, best use of color, and best workmanship in piecing and/or applique. I’m excited to plan my piece.

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Piecing a Life: Quilts by Ann Kowaleski

It is a quilt-tastic time in Mount Pleasant! In addition to the Lenore Crawford exhibit at Art Reach, we also have the amazing Ann Kowaleski story quilt exhibit currently on display in the Baber Room at CMU’s Park Library. Kowaleski is a well-known quilt artist whose work is influenced by folk art and the cultural traditions of Mexico and Guatemala, as well as everyday life – the way she translates the commonplace into these beautiful handcrafted art pieces is truly inspiring to me.

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

The Spirit: Graham, Dickinson and O’Keeffe (98×45″)

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

This large quilt is a tribute to three well-known inspirational artists from various fields: Martha Graham, Emily Dickinson, and Georgia O’Keeffe. Kowaleski has given each woman a distinct section of the quilt, but uses organic shapes to ease the transitions between the three so there is a feeling of flow. The color palette of each section is fitting for its subject, and, also fittingly, the quilt has a rhythm that evokes the emotions inspired by dance, poetry, and painting.

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

The Emily Dickinson section includes representations of her poetry as though they are sheets of paper floating in the air around her. Kowaleski uses embroidery to include excerpts from some of Dickinson’s famous poems. I love this technique.

 

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

Life in Ordinary Times (45×60″)

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

This piece features Crewel embroidery in combination with traditional quilting and the use of some mixed media such as buttons and ribbon. It also incorporates a variety of fabrics: you can see in the photo above that she used a netting over top of a more traditional material to make part of the woman’s dress, in addition to several other fabrics, some of which are also nontraditional for a quilt.

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

So many things about this piece really captured me: the fact that the woman’s hair is at once somewhat wild, coming off her head in great swoops, but also beautiful and with great texture detail; the way the Crewelwork creates her expression both in the actual embroidery and in the way it affects the fabric it has been applied to; the way the woman’s hands clasp one another (a position that I admit looks quite familiar); and the use of a multitude of colors and patterns in the embroidery and fabrics that make up the woman’s dress to indicate the barely contained mayhem that so often makes up our daily life.

 

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

Midlife Musings (60×44″)

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

One of the things I really appreciate about Kowaleski’s quilts is that she captures the beauty of people, especially women, in a way that is not glamorous but instead evokes a more emotional response. These women are each unique in their appearance, though clearly all of a particular cohort. The women here are all supporting one another, and each appears to be wearing a mask. The use of the traditional (as a quilt subject) tulips around the edge of the quilt is a satisfying foil to the scene she’s created at the center of the piece. Likewise, the inclusion of the bread tray doily and the two small works of art on either side evoke thoughts of “women’s work” and the domestic expectations that women have faced (and still do).

 

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

Meet Me in the Bathtub (45×69″)

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

This quilt is another that uses a variety of materials to create an emotional response. I especially love the use of photographs printed on fabric as well as the use of ribbon and other embellishments.

 

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

Two Women (45×46″)

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

I especially like this quilt. It features two women who are, again, supporting one another. They are similar in shape and dress and yet you can see that they are two distinct individuals with distinct personalities when you look at their faces. The way Kowaleski has put together the fabric of their dresses is so pleasing to the eye: the diagonals of each dress bodice point inward, toward the heart, but also create a very flattering effect; the use of ribbon, buttons, and chain; and the color palette which is at once feminine and strong.

These story quilts are such an inspiration. I’m just getting into quilting myself, having only been doing it for a couple of years so far, but seeing artwork like this gives me so many ideas for possible projects and ways to take my quilts to be something beyond just useful or warm. I highly recommend checking out this exhibit, and I hope to see more from Kowaleski in the future.

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Lenore Crawford’s Fabric Art

One of the neatest places in Mount Pleasant is Art Reach. It’s a community arts organization that offers a gift shop, gallery space, outreach to schools, scholarships, and regular programs featuring visual art, poetry, music, and pretty much any kind of art you can think of. When we lived here before, they had a relatively small space in the church next to the library, but while we were gone they were able to move to retail and gallery space right downtown on Broadway.

I noticed that they were having an exhibition in the Morey Family Gallery this month called Fabric Art by a local(ish – she’s based in Midland) artist named Lenore Crawford. She combines quilting with fabric painting and a technique called thread painting (also known as thread drawing, according to the intarwebs) to create these beautiful art quilts.

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

Dogwood Blossoms II (31×40″)

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

You can see the very fine detail of her work. She uses a lot of applique technique to achieve the layered look that is reminiscent of the layers and texture you see in an oil painting.

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

I noticed here that she is using a variety of sewing techniques or styles in any one quilt – here we have a great contrast between the straight or barely curved lined of the leaves and petals of the flower and the swirls of the background quilting. Of course the floral motif of this one appeals to the gardener in me.

 

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

Grand Poppy (37×43″)

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

I love the combination of media Crawford used in this quilt, as well as the amazing color palette she utilized. The poppy itself is stunning, but the background behind the poppy really drew my attention. The colors range all over the place and yet never detract from the central focus of the main blossom. The variation of colors and stitches she used for the petals really capture the delicate, beautiful texture of a poppy blossom.

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

These beads are lovely – their luster really doesn’t show up well in this photo. What a neat way to represent the anthers of a poppy flower. I also wanted to show another of the stitch techniques she’s used, this time a varied zigzag stitch.

 

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

Winter Sky (29×23″)

This one drew my attention immediately. The stark silhouette of the tree combined with the so-familiar colors of a sunset in progress really rings true. Of course I managed not to get any other photos of the detail of this piece, but that doesn’t reflect how I responded to it (perhaps I neglected the camera because I was so engaged with the quilt).

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

The Garden Parasol, Frederick Frieseke (42.5×56.75″)

Fabric art by Lenore Crawford

This was the first quilt I saw upon entering the gallery, and I noticed right away that there was a lot of painting within the quilting. It is based on a painting by an American impressionist painter who lived most of his life in France (impressionism and France are two of Crawford’s primary sources of inspiration). If you compare the two, you can see that the quilt is not just a direct copy/interpretation of the original painting, but adds some variation in shape and color choice as well as content. The background scene in the quilt is quite different from the painting (I think I prefer the quilt, actually), and the colors appear more vibrant and intense in the quilt.

I was so happy that I found out about this exhibit. It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning. I also found out that the Art Reach shop takes submissions for consignment by local artists (by jury), so that’s something I may work toward in the future myself.

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