Many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away …. no, that’s not right, I mean here in Portland, OR – in April. Ann Johnston – one of my heroes, gave a lecture to the Columbia FiberArts Guild and then offered a 3-day workshop afterward.
What a fascinating ride Ann has been on. For many years she’s worked with dyed and painted fabric – produced in her own studio. Her book – Color by Accident, was my bible. My Virginia kitchen was filled with ziplock bags of fabulous coloured muslin, silks and sometimes even velvet cloth. Rows of curing yardage spread out on the kitchen table – while my husband was away flying planes, or putting up cellular towers in strange places around the world.
Since then, we have left our Virginia house, where I had the free run of the kitchen for my dyeing projects. We were beginning an 8 year wander, from Virginia to Florida to end up in Portland, Oregon.
My dyeing equipment sold, but I kept all the fabric and schlepped the boxes around from home to home. I still made quilts but surface design and dyeing was off the books.
Now we are settled here in the NorthWest, we have finally decided to buy a home again.
I am thinking…….. maybe I could start dyeing my fabric again?
And if I do, I’ll be following Ann’s books and now her DVD.
This Flora necklace, made with WireKnitz, comes in 4 different colors. I chose a pretty Henna one – well, they’re all pretty but I am thinking about my wardrobe….um. I like this gold too, but in the end the henna got my vote.
There’s homework for this workshop. Yikes!
Cool stuff this WireKnitz. And it comes in all sorts of colours.
The Quilt Alliance videoed some great interviews with quilt artists who showed at the International Quilt Festival 2014 – Go Tell it at the Quilt Show! If you couldn’t go it’s lovely to see the quilts. And if you did go, it’s interesting to hear what the artists say about their work.
Many years ago my quilt ‘Summer Haze aka Volcanic Pizza’ was shown at Alexandria Palace in London, UK. My mother and I looked through the catalogue and noticed a familiar name. Sara Impey’s family lived in the area close to my mother’s house. When I went to the exhibition opening I sought out Sara and we remained in touch ever since. Her quilts have lain on my mother’s living room floor while we discussed the design and content. Sara’s work was shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In fact, they have been shown all over the world.
Over time Sara made textile art based on personal issues and social concerns. She made a name for herself with these text based quilts and eventually Batsford publishers asked her if she would consider basing a book on her work. For a while she resisted. She is well aware of the time and effort involved in authoring a book – she was a Times journalist and has first hand knowledge of the publishing world. In the end though, she decided to work on the book.
Some years ago I was part of an art quilt group founded by Hollis Chatelain. Life and geography have intervened since then but in my mind I hold the quarterly meetings and the members as a wonderful memory. And am grateful for the friends I made.
Hollis found a technique and style suited to her need for political and environmental comment. Quilting isn’t usually associated with social matters. If quilting is mentioned most people’s knee jerk reaction is to say – “oh, I have a wedding ring quilt hand made by my grandmother, could you finish it for me?”. Or variations…….
There is a vast underground of mostly women artists (which is probably why we receive the above comments), who use a soft medium and speak about their world view. Be it social commentary, colour studies, cartoons, abstract, 3-D pieces, or any other known expression of creativity. And possibly unknown!
Enough of the serious stuff. This isn’t meant to be an essay on a particular art form. I want to introduce you to Hollis Chatelain’s work from my point of view.
She operates in three areas. Figurative, Abstract, and Nature. Because I am more of an abstract artist I have greater interest in her abstract work. I have the usual reaction of humans towards realistic depictions. If it’s not spot on it feels off, and therefore makes me withdraw from the work. This is known as the Uncanny Valley effect.
Of course, I immediately show a piece which isn’t something Hollis is known for. It’s one of her alternative methods of making quilts. But I just wanted to point out her use of colour and the title, which incorporates the word FLOW. And exactly describes the work.
This is a piece she made in 2013. It’s absolutely lovely. It uses complicated swirls and patterns from a painting by a Nigerian artist. Hollis bought the painting and translated it from paper to fabric. Once again, this is not what Hollis is known for but makes sense in her body of work as she is firmly connected to Africa.
This piece is created in Hollis’ known style and technique. It is a hand dye-painted, machine quilted, whole cloth quilt.
Her statement: “An area of natural forest the size of a soccer field is cut down every two seconds, estimates Greenpeace.
From lush trees and wildlife to barren fields and deserts, how long will it take before the change becomes irreparable?”
Can you imagine walking into a gallery and being faced with this huge work? it’s nearly 7 feet wide. Firstly you are drawn to the colour – she tends towards the monochromatic. Then your eye turns towards the left of the piece where the heavier and darker trees lie, and finally you mentally walk down the avenue of shady trees.
But the kicker comes when you naturally go closer to the work because you wonder – how on earth is this made?
Strikingly, the whole surface is stitched thread.
Finally, you read her statement. And think a little.
Who knows what goes on in the mind of an artist? People may question why Hollis works in fabric and thread when she is obviously an accomplished painter and photographer. My guess is; the things she wants to talk about are more forcefully brought to attention when a left field medium is used.
It might be a deliberately calculated choice to differentiate her work. It might be Hollis just likes working in fabric and thread.
But she sure gets attention whatever her rationale.
Much of my work incorporates hand quilting and stitching. Which means using as many gorgeous threads as possible.
Years ago, while wandering around the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandria Palace in London, I came across an array of bright colours. Stef Francis’ booth was utterly eye-catching. After nearly an hour of gathering, holding, feeling and gazing, several skeins of space dyed cotton came home with me to America. They hold a special place in my thread stash.
Any time I attended a show in England I would look for Stef’s booth and augment my collection – which is now a decent size!
Not only does she create mouth-watering yarns but she puts together kits. Everything comes in the kit: the fabric, threads, beads, sequins, and template.