Text on Textiles 2011

The first news I received this morning on opening my eyes was that my entry for the Text on Textiles juried exhibition has been chosen as one of 26 finalists. DH&PA was reading email in the small hours of the night. That was good news at the end of a week that hasn’t exactly been full of it. The sun is shining too so my spirits have risen somewhat, after having been seriously crushed. Without going into all the boring details it looks like I shall be looking for a new contract in the short term future – just goes to show you should never count your chickens before they are hatched. Assured work until the end of 2013 was really too good to be true.

Anyway back to the positive things in life. The TOT exhibition will be shown at all three of the IQA events in Houston, Cincinnati, and Long Beach in 2011 and 2012. Other venues may follow. The quilt will be on its travels for 3 years. That makes it rather tricky giving a return address as I’m not sure where I will be in September 2014. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

No pictures allowed until its debut in the exhibit at the festival, but I thought I would give a little teaser describing the design process. I decided to explore the idea of words as a design element quite literally. My inspiration came as a result of taking the course Working in Series with Elizabeth Barton at QU where I learnt about Notan, the Japanese concept involving the play and placement of light and dark next to the other. I explored the balance of the positive and negative shapes in letters and words. (The importance of the negative space in design was also something Elizabeth mentioned in the classes.) I developed my own alphabet font with the intention that the viewer should be uncertain which shape is the positive and which the negative. At first glance the words should not be instantly recognizable.

I think that is all I can say now and not give anything away. It’s such a shame that the venues are across the pond as that almost certainly means I won’t get to see the exhibit. I haven’t seen the 2010 one either and have been unable to find any mention or images much on the www. In the end we didn’t make the trip the Open European Quilt Exhibition in the Netherlands, because there was never any mention on the website that the exhibit was going to be shown there. It would have been interesting to see how the other artists approached the theme of text on textiles. The positive side is that it left me with no pre-conceived notions when I started off on the design process for my 2011 entry.

Artist #8 Quilt #8

I uploaded my entry to the Text on Textiles exhibition a couple of days ago – with only a week left until closing. I was assigned artist and quilt number 8. Last year I was artist #39 and quilt #149. Unless a lot of quilters are leaving everything to the very last minute or submitting their entries by post there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest in this exhibition this year. I’m beginning to wonder if it will even take place.

The weather wasn’t co-operating and rained most of the time so that we weren’t able to get the photos taken outside. We ended up shifting the furniture around in the lounge, opening the terrace doors and hanging the quilt inside the room near the doors. My long suffering DH photographer had to stand out in the soaking wet bushes to get far enough away to get the full sized image of the quilt. And then I had problems uploading the images to the website, probably due to our useless “high”/low speed internet access. I hope it will have been worth all the stress to get finished that comes on top of all the other stress due to (we hope) imminent removal projects. (Half the house contents into a small flat for me here in DE and half the house contents to our new home in ES.)

If all plans do come to fruition this may well be the last large quilt I make for some time. I shall have to find a more portable form of creative expression to keep me occupied in my evenings and weekends without visits.

Quilting is “uniquely” good for us

… according to the Daily Mail. They are reporting results published in the Journal of Public Health by the University of Glasgow. The results of the study show that all hobbies, particularly those that promote creativity are good for our well-being. It would seem that quilting helps your cognitive, creative and emotional well-being.

Just as well, as I have just spent another 3 days slaving over the sewing machine, working on my entry for the exhibition “Text on Textile: Words as Design”. I have made good progress. The largest part of the quilting is now done. The results are as I imagined them. Without all the public holidays there are this year in June I would have been hard pushed to complete on time. Now, at the end of the second long weekend this month, I am confident that I will be finished for the submission deadline of July 1st. I feel I have a strong entry. I tried it out on Tess yesterday at the end of our English conversation session and got exactly the reaction I was looking for. So that gave me an added impetus to keep the nose to the grindstone.

Nothing to show…

here on the blog for reasons I mentioned in my previous post, but I had a very productive weekend. Last Thursday was a public holiday here in Germany, so I took the Friday off too and made a long weekend. I spent a large part of each day in the studio and have finished the quilt top for my latest piece. It has a background of different sized squares that I developed directly on the design wall. I had a sketch of where I wanted the main elements of the quilt to be placed, but even there I didn’t force myself to follow it slavishly. I made some alterations as work progressed. I completed the quilt top using fabrics I already had in my stack, which was a relief as I had set myself the goal of finishing the top over the weekend. Had I needed to start dyeing additional fabric, it would have completely thrown my schedule off course.

On Sunday I dyed three metres of fabric for the backing and the binding. So I’m all set up for this coming weekend, when I intend to get started on the quilting. I shall have to take a trip into town on Saturday to stock up on thread as I don’t have all the colours I need. I’m looking forward to that because I’ve found a new shop via the internet that looks very promising. I think it may the same shop I’ve used in the past, but moved into bigger and better premises. After the trip I should be set up with everything I need to complete the quilt. As the coming weekend is also a long one (Monday is another public holiday here in Germany) I’m hoping to make good progress.

It feels good to be working on a large piece of textile art again.

Update (2011-06-11):

Been to the shop this morning. It is the same one as I have used in the past – TOKO Kurzwaren in Frankfurt am Main. They moved to the new premises at the beginning of the year. The new shop is double the area of the old one and also much lighter and airier. They have added some fabrics and buttons to the range of goods they sell. A big improvement – I hope they continue to stay in business.

I spent 57€ on thread a few other bits and pieces that I needed. It’s amazing how it all adds up.

What can I say?

This is a question I have been asking myself for a few weeks now. It’s been quite some time since I posted anything, which is of course the one thing you are not supposed to do on a blog if you want a loyal readership. But since this blog is about my textile art and related topics I don’t intend boring my readers (if I still have any) with day to day chit chat.

The problem is not that I am not working. The problem is that I am working on a quilt for an entry to a juried exhibition. The rules forbid you to enter any piece of work that has been published anywhere before – including on blogs and websites. As I don’t have the time to be working on more than one project at once, this unfortunately means that I have nothing to show my blog.

I can’t say that I really understand the reasoning behind this entry condition. Textile art is so difficult to photograph so that you really appreciate the piece to the full, that even if I had seen a piece of art on someone’s website or blog I would still leap at the chance to see it in person. I can understand that organisers want to have new work in their exhibitions and not pieces that have been touted around the exhibition circuit, but having to keep the wraps on entirely is a bit frustrating. And should I get this quilt finished in time and it does get accepted into the exhibition, it will be a good few months yet until I can reveal all.

Sketches for the series

Having done a lot of exercises looking at artists who work in series and thinking about my own quilts I like best I realised a few things. I looked at the quilts I feel most happy about to see if there are themes lurking in among them. Two themes I can find without much looking, as I have two mini series that I feel I could continue to pursue. I have made two quilts that are a contemporary interpretation of Amish quilt designs – the centre square and the centre diamond. The other is a series of 3 small quilts of abstract faces similar to the Jawlensky heads and also a mask. Both are areas that I feel I still have ideas to work on.

After some more thought and revisiting my favourite quilt artists I realised that I am more drawn to non-realistic than realistic or abstract themes, so I hardened up my ideas and started to concentrate on squares and grids. I felt this was a bit wider than just Amish quilt designs and had more possibilities to make it my own. I worked for a couple of days on a mind map, which turned out pretty huge. Elizabeth said I had enough ideas that I was set up with a series of series! Here is a brief summary of the mind map. The main branches are

  • Amish layouts
  • colour schemes
  • quadrilaterals (all shapes that have 4 sides)
  • designing my own block (dividing the square with lines)
  • ideas for variation in the squares – lots of sub-branches here – exploring texture, colour, adding layers
  • other ideas (looking at tartans, de-constructing grids, …)
  • quick look at elements of design

Then along came the next lesson with various exercises for working on your ideas to arrive at potential designs. One of them was to go out with a camera and look for images that correspond to your theme. Since it was such a nice weekend we decided to get outdoors and enjoy the weather. An hour of walking around in Bad Homburg looking for grids and squares resulted in over 100 images. I chose a few of them and printed them out in black and white. Today I set about simplifying the images into sketches that might be worth translating into fabric. It wasn’t as easy as I thought and some of the images that looked interesting as photographs, became quite boring when reduced to a line drawing.

Here are my the results of a few hours work this afternoon.

Working in a Series

As if I didn’t have enough things to do, I signed up for a class at QU with Elizabeth Barton on working in a series. I have been wittering on about whether I should develop some of my beginnings of series further, so this seemed like an opportunity too good to miss. The class started last Friday and we have lots of exercises to help us understand the principles behind working in a series and with forming some ideas as to what our personal theme might be.

The first exercise was to analyse the work of some favourite artists to understand their themes and how they varied the idea of the theme. I thought I’d share these findings with you. We were to look at two painters, two quilters and two artists from another medium.


Claude Monet has always been one of my favourite impressionist artists. He worked on many series all based on particular objects e.g. wheatstacks, Rouen cathedral and places e.g. London, his garden at Giverny. He was principally interested in how the light changes an object and painted things at different times of the day and in different seasons. I found this excellent website showing many paintings from his series.

I discovered the works of Alexej von Jawlensky at a retrospective exhibition we visited with friends in Wiesbaden. (He lived the last part of his life in Wiesbaden.) There was a room full of his face paintings (Jawlensky actually calls them Köpfe – heads) that really made a lasting impression on me. He produced many works based on faces which became increasingly abstract with time. They become studies of shape and line. There is a good overview of this development here. While researching online I found these line drawings on the MoMA, New York website. His drawings particularly use few lines to portray a face.


Photographer Alain Briot takes amazing landscape photographs mainly in the American South West. He uses light to create wonderful atmosphere. Two galleries particularly appeal to me:
Antelope Canyon for the light, texture, shape and line. The colours are also amazing.
Blur Portfolio – Trees and cacti reduced to abstract shapes, with lots of line, again the colours are gorgeous.
I first discovered Alain Briot when thinking about developing a personal style. He has an interesting series of articles on the Luminous Landscape photography website.

I had to include the paper artist Isabelle de Borchgrave, who produces costumes and objects from paper. These are 3D works. Her costume series are themed by era or place and include all the accessories, made from paper, including lace, jewelry and shoes. She currently has an exhibition Pulp Fashion at the Legion of Honor Museum, San Francisco that I wrote about just a couple of weeks ago. Isabelle shows the most amazing attention to detail.


David Walker – In the Beginning Series based on the egg shape. Great colours that really sing. The development of the series is by changing the colour scheme, the shapes remain: the egg, curved and straight lines. Lots of contrast.

Valerie Goodwin – Cartographic Quilts a series based on maps – geometric shapes – squares, rectangles and line. I like them because they tell a story, but are not 100% realistic – maps being an abstract form. Great use of bright colours and contrast too.

I couldn’t just stop at two quilt artists. So here is a very different kind of quilt to the two artists above.
Deirdre Adams – particularly the horizon series – I love the simplicity of them, but they still have lots to tell.
Line, large areas of colour, lots of texture with the quilting. I particularly like Horizon V for the sudden introduction of 3 little houses on the horizon and a “pieced border” on the left hand side. – Variation mainly on colour scheme and the height of the horizon.


If you are interested in art you will probably like this website introduced to me by Elizabeth Barton in my last class at QU. ArtBabble is a collection of videos on many different subjects. Their subtitle is aptly Play Art Loud. They have many prestigious art galleries as partners. Just take a look at their list.

You can learn a lot from the videos. Try this one on Vermeer: Master of Light.

Slow progress

My design class has finished at QU this week. I have a design that I am working on, but progress is very slow. I really don’t have the energy at the moment to be in the studio. Also as we now have the house on the market we have to try and keep it reasonably tidy and presentable in case someone wants to view. It is rather inhibiting as I usually just live with the chaos when I’m in the process of making a quilt top – not really an option any more.

I know all the wise ones say you should just keep going and doing a little bit. So I did a very little bit yesterday. I put together all the green fabric I have excluding commercial prints and the reds and purple red. I find it easy to put the reds and pinks into a colour gradation in order of value. The greens are much harder. I laid them out on the floor (fabric and the floor seem to work for me) and took a photo of each set. I then converted to black and white on the computer. I got the reds right, but the greens were a little more hit and miss. It is surprising how the bright greens turn out to be quite dark in value in the black and white image. I find it hard to believe somehow, but I guess the computer doesn’t lie – what’s in it for it?

The idea is to sort the fabrics according to value and then use fabric from each pile according to the value required from the value studies that we produced. It will be interesting to see how this method works. It makes sense to me and it is something I haven’t consciously thought about for the quilts I’ve made up to now.

Some dyeing and painting

The weather was foul this weekend – cold, grey, miserable. No reason to leave the house and no incentive. So I did some dyeing instead. I needed to dye-paint a piece of cloth for the background for a quilt I am planning. I mixed up some dye in yellow ochre and a dark green and then mixed it to various strengths of dye. I had a piece of fabric about a metre square that was soaked in warm water and then spread out over plastic. My plastic is an IKEA shower curtain that I wipe off each time and reuse. The only problem is that it is folded into squares and these ridges cause the dye to pool. I don’t think it will be a major problem with the piece of fabric because it is going to have a lot of other pieces appliquéd on top, so the lines will be broken up and not so noticeable.

I wanted a gradation of colour from pale yellow ochre to dark green across the diagonal. I think it turned out quite well.

At the same time I also dyed another large piece of fabric a dark green.

After I’d finished painting the first piece of cloth I still had quite a bit of dye left over and it seemed to be a shame to just pour it down the sink so I did some stuff and dump dyeing. This piece turned out quite nicely. I stuffed a narrow strip of fabric into a large yoghurt pot and poured on the remains of the lightest yellow ochre dye followed by some of the green dye. I then just left it alone for about 2 hours. I do like these surprise pieces that you get this way.

The other pieces were just stuffed into the pots containing the remaining dye solutions and left to their own devices. I have two different fabrics on the go for dyeing at the moment. One lot is from IKEA and it produces the more striking markings. The fabric is crisper and the folds are more pronounced so the “ice crystal” results are much more noticeable. The other fabric is an unbleached muslin that I bought as an experiment. It shrinks a lot and doesn’t produce such nice markings when dyed. It’s also a pain to iron flat so I won’t be buying any more of it. It’s the final piece below. The subtle markings are quite nice, but it really isn’t a pleasure to work with.