Monday, December 14, 2009

Hello, My Name is Sally Wright and I am a Classaholic...

Certainly, that's the way I feel sometimes. There are so many quilting techniques and teachers that interest me I wonder how to fit them all in. And once I've taken the class, I'm off to the next without the luxury of time to put what I've learned into practice. Suffice it to say that I'm never happier in my quilting life than when I am in a classroom with friends old and new and a great teacher learning a new way to express myself in fabric. Recently,
I've been able to participate in several new learning experiences.

Art Quilter Marcia Stein visited the Santa Monica Quilt Guild in November and presented her workshop "Picture This" in which she shared her methods for transforming photographs into pictorial quilts. I was especially interested in the way she simplified her subjects - her quilts are very direct and immediate, often picturing people in everyday situations on simple backgrounds, but they go right to the heart of the subjects.

I took a photo of a friend's garden in Mill Valley for my small quilt. Marcia helped me simplify the scene and select fabrics which would do
most of the work. The resulting quilt is entitled "October - Mill Valley" and became a gift to our friends who have shown us so much hospitality in their lovely 1880s home on a redwood studded hillside.

A few weeks ago I headed south to Westchester near LAX with a friend to Tanners Sew and Vac to take a class on making fabric bowls and totes using a technique of winding fabric strips around clothesline and coiling the line to form vessels very much like building up a coiled pot in ceramics. The afternoon went by in a flash with teacher Lisa full of good humor and great tips. By the time I left I had the beginnings of a coiled tote bag all done in shades of black, gray and white
(actually leftover strips from a log cabin quilt made for my son many years ago). I finished it at home and have been using it for a week or so to many compliments. I'm now addicted to these wound up creations and have finished another bag for a friend. Certainly a class like this is practical and money saving in the long run - or at least that's my excuse.

My recent totally indulgent Christmas gift to myself was a three days worth of classes with the wonderful Sharon Schamber at Sewing Arts Center in Santa Monica, California. I had long ago discovered Sharon and her work at another class at Sewing Arts years ago and at a series of classes at Quilting in the Desert in Phoenix using her Piecelique' technique. This time she gave a series of three classes on Stippling For the Longarm, Free Motion Unmarked Feathers , and painting with Dyes. I don't own a longarm but the stipple techniques are universal for both the longarm and the domestic machines most of us use. For the first time a drove a longarm using her techniques and it was fascinating, though I know I will never be able to afford either the funds or the room to own one! The Feathers class inspiring and full of tips and tricks for better free motion quilting in general. Best of all, Sharon gave us all copies of her DVDs for each class to take home and watch over and over again until her techniques are truly ingrained in your psyche. She is a fabulously talented quilter as her back to back Best of Shows in Paducah and Houston will attest, a truly great teacher and a very classy lady.

After Christmas there are more classes - Esterita Austin is coming to the Santa Monica Quilt Guild in early January and February may bring a workshop on free motion quilting for art quilts with Bob Adams. Then in March is my much anticipated week at Asilomar and a workshop with Barbara Olson. So many classes - so little time! Somewhere in between them I want to do some practice free motion feathered pieces on silk shantung - perfect for pillows - and there are more photo inspired quilts coming together in my head. Then there are those coiled bowls and bags which are totally addictive. I'm also going back to work almost full time in retail for a year, but have already figured out how to smuggle a sewing machine and supplies into the back room for the quiet hours. I'll get it all done, I'm sure!!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fabulous Fiber Art in San Francisco

The last week of October - in my other life as a professional antiques dealer - my husband and I exhibited for the 26th year at the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show, a charity show benefiting Enterprise for high School Students. As always it was a glorious and glittering affair bringing together the best possible material in fine art and antiques from all over the world. You can view our small stand in the photo on the left.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the week is the very venue of the show which is in one of the old WWII pier buildings jutting right out into San Francisco Bay at Fort Mason Center in the Marina area not far from the Presidio. At break time it is possible to slip out the side door for spectacular views of the Golden Gate on one side and Alcatraz and Tiburon on the other. The sea lions swim past and beneath the pier hunting for food.

I spent some time during the quiet hours of the show wandering with my camera and found some fascinating examples of textiles and
fiber art among the furniture, ceramics, silver and other decorative arts offered for sale.

Directly across from our stand Eddie Keshishian, a tapestry and carpet dealer from London displayed a gorgeous small 16th century French tapestry. the underlying pattern of beautifully shaded baroque form overlapping leaves kept drawing my eye throughout the week. I sketched some of the leaves thinking they would make a wonderful art quilt someday. The borders are complete - a rarity in tapestries of this age and the colors are still bright and vibrant through hundreds of years.

My dear friend and colleague Kathleen Taylor of Kathleen Taylor -
the Lotus Collection
in San Francisco's Jackson square is also a tapestry specialist, but I simply love the photo of her wide selection of European and Asian textile pieces. Purchased by collectors and interior designers to be enjoyed as wall hangings or fabricated into luxurious pillows or upholstery on rare furniture pieces, can you imagine better eye candy? Imagine your 18th century Louis XV chair with a beautiful brocade seat of the period or your dining room table with a runner of 18th century Japanese

On set up day earlier in the week I had been drawn to the stand of Joel Cooner from Dallas, Texas and his amazingly beautiful late 17th century Spanish processional figure of Queen Isabella of Aragon. Not only was her carved face exquisitely sculpted, but her elaborate gown was a fascinating combination of early European brocades and velvets with a beautiful early Chinese silk embroidered petticoat. For closer (and much better) views of this remarkable piece go to her page on Joel's site.

Sandra Whitman of San Francisco is a specialist in fine antique Chinese and Tibetan rugs and her stand is always filled with wonderful early examples. I was especially struck by this 18th century Ningxia runner with its geometric design and subtle colors. The carpet is wool on cotton foundation. Does anyone else see a Courthouse Steps design here? Nothing is really new.....

Finally, Jeff Bridgeman, an Americana and folk art dealer from Pennsylvania exhibited along with an amazing collection of antique and vintage American flags a pieced table cover made from 19h century cigar silks. In the Victorian era these narrow silk ribbons, printed with the name of the cigar brand were tied around bundles of cigars. Women kept them and made into a variety of decorative items. The center of the cover was pieced in a crazy quilt pattern typical of the 1880s. This piece has been framed as a vibrant wall piece.

I hope you've enjoyed this brief textile tour!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2009 - A Space Odyssey

This week I finished this quilt in time to send it off as an entry to the SAQA show Art Meets Science which will debut at the Festival of Quilts in the UK in summer 2010. The deadline was yesterday and I made it by the skin of my teeth. Click on the image to the left for a larger photo posted on my website.

It is wholecloth - painted on sateen in a variety of paints including Tsukineko inks, Jacquard textile paints, watercolor pencils and crayons. It was free-motion quilted using silks, rayon and polyester threads. I added beaded stars and laid the quilt on another free motion quilted piece which was also beaded with Swarovsky crystal beads. I based it on a photograph from the Hubble Space Telescope website entitled "A perfect storm of turbulent gasses in the omega/swan nebula" . I was entranced by the swirling colors and juxtaposition of light and dark in the original image.

Realizing that there is no such thing as a unique idea - I was eagerly looking through the World of Beauty winners at the current International Quilt Festival in Houston (no my quilt "Stairway to Heaven" was not included in that list) I found another quilt based on the same photo which won an honorable mention in the Art-Painted Surface category and was made by Anne Munoz of Holladay, Utah. Congratulations, Anne, it is wonderful..... sigh.

I've been painting, texturing, absracting - all those arty things - for months. I think I'm ready to take a break and just piece something traditional... Possibly relaxing?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Forrest's Flowers

Forrest Smoot was my husband's grandfather. Already well into his 80s when I first met him over 25 years ago, I was instantly drawn to this big burly man who reminded me a bit of my own beloved Grandfather who had been gone for over 10 years. Forrest had been long widowed and lived in a retirement community in Ventura County where as a former electrician and mechanic he was essential as a local handyman and Mr. Fix-it - especially for all the widow neighbors.

He had a small, but busy, patio garden and in pride of place among the birds of paradise (his late wife's favorites) were these rather unattractive prehistoric looking plants with big fleshy green leaves - some of them in terracotta, but others stuck in old paint cans which had been painted an odd green. My husband tells me that the green came from all the leftover paint in the garage thrown together.

After his sudden death these various tacky cans and pots arrived in our garden courtesy of my husband who has never been known to throw away a plant. I thought they were hideously ugly and wondered why we had to give them room, but Glen lovingly repotted them into new terracotta and put them in the back of our patio against the aged redwood fence.

The following spring these strange plants burst forth with the most spectacular vivid blooms I had ever seen. Red, Schiaparelli pink, white, yellow, cascaded rather wierdly from nodes on the big green leaves. I have since learned that these are Epiphyllums, a true cactus, often called "Cactus orchids", "Orchid Cactus" or "Epis" for short. they bloom spectacularly for a single day and some only for a single night. They have bloomed every year since and are a highly anticipated event in our garden - a reminder of Forrest.

A few years ago I started photographing them with the thought that they would eventually end up in an art quilt. I was inspired by my art quilt group the "Fiber Fanatics" to take some of these images, manipulate the color and images in PhotoShop Elements and then print them on ink jet canvas. I've used these images in combination with commercial printed cotton (an especially luscious gradated green from Carol Breyer Fallert), cotton batiks, machine applique', and glass beads in the small quilt at right which is now named "Forrest's Flowers". Click on the image for a link to a larger image of this quilt on my web site.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pacific International Quilt Festival

I'm happy to say that two of my quilts have been accepted for the Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara next month! Both A Golden Host of Daffodils seen here and "Alright, Mr. Demille, I'm ready for my Close-up" (seen in the left column at Long Beach) will be there, but unfortunately I won't. A business trip to San Francisco the following week makes for very poor timing!

I was able to go last year, take some classes and shop and enjoyed it all!

Thread - Who New?

I suppose like a lot of quilters I take thread for granted. If it looks right on the fabric - fine! However, after a workshop with Cindy Needham entitled "Open Thread Bar" I don't think I'll look at thread the same way again.

At a recent Santa Monica Quilt Guild workshop Cindy brought dozens and dozens of different types of Superior threads - cotton, polyester, metallics - and let loose her students to play. She talked about each thread and what she uses it for, the ways different threads work in your machine, needles, fine tension adjustments to make a balanced stitch, common sense tips on taming a "difficult thread". Looking at her magnificent machine quilting work you can see that she has really mastered her materials. I truly recommend this workshop as part of every quilter's education.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

SAQA Online Quilt Auction Begins September 10!

Just a reminder that the SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) 2009 online Benefit Auction begins September 10th. There are over 200 quilts offered for sale by SAQA members (including me - see the quilt below right).

The auction will start Thursday, September 10th at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. It will again be a reverse auction with price points starting at $750 on the first day and dropping to $550, $350, $250, $150 and a final of $75.

Part 2 of the Auction will begin September 17th, and Part 3 will start on September 24th.

There are some absolutely amazing works donated to the auction so go to the SAQA website where they can all be previewed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

On my Design Wall Right Now....

I've been working on the quilt I began in David Taylor's class at the International Quilt Festival Long Beach last month. The subject is my son at the age of 10 (he's now 19 and away at college) at summer camp on a Lake in the High Sierras. I photoshopped his image from a party at a gym on to another photo of Shaver Lake and presto! I've had this quilt in my mind for a couple of years and finally, thanks to David, the design was finalized.

The fabric selection for the background was done in a couple of days at home - a wide range of hand dyes and batiks plus some hand marbled fabric for the dead log. The photo shows the end of that process with all the pieces pinned together on my design board. Another few days to turn the edges over the freezer paper, and then it was glued together. Obviously I decided not to use David's hand applique' technique - it's just not me - too impatient for that. I've used Elmers to glue the edges and have sewn it down with zigzag.

Another couple of days have been spent thread painting David's image and adding branches to the large trees. I'm at a quandary right now regarding how much thread painting to do now versus quilting after it is sandwiched. I will attempt David's close quilting to put in some shading and detail in the background.

I've also completed a little art quilt called "Autumn Haze" which I've added to my Etsy shop
and to my website which started as a sample of a short 20 minute demo for the Santa Monica Quilt Guild on "Thread Painting". After the demo I brought it home, added some rubber stamped images, beading and three different patterns of quilting. I love the hazy green/rust "fallish" colors. (I guess I'm ready for the end of summer...) The demo must have been a success since I've been asked to do a full day workshop for the Guild in April. Another adventure....

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"Night Flight " will be at Houston After All!

I'm very happy to say that the problem I mentioned with Quilts, Inc. and my quilt "Night Flight" which was part of Celebrate Spring at Chicago Festival has been resolved and it will, after all, be included when the exhibit travels to Houston Festival in October. I received this news and an apology for the office mistake this last week and I am extremely pleased that two of my quilts will be there. I only wish I could get there, too, since these lucky stars will probably never be aligned this way again! Sadly, It's not in the cards this year to make another quilting trip - I'm already set up for a weekend at Road to California and a week at Asilomar in the spring. I hope to find someone to take photos of my quilts hanging there.

Meanwhile I'm well into selecting the fabrics for my piece from the David Taylor class in Long Beach. It looks great on the wall so far... Maybe an in process photo soon.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

International Quilt Festival Long Beach

The long anticipated second annual International Quilt Festival / Long Beach is now past and I am still basking in the glow! I spent most of the week commuting between my home in Westwood and the Long Beach Convention Center since this year I decided not to spend any more than necessary on hotel expenses. Actually the trip down in the morning was quite easy each day if we left by 7:30 AM and since we stayed until after dinner the evening traffic was not that awful.

I started off on Wednesday with Bonnie McCaffrey's wonderful class on painted fabric portraits. Her techniques are amazing and yes, you can do it if you follow her blueprint. in fact in the last few days at home I have used her techniques to paint a portrait of my son for a long planned quilt and it actually worked!

Friday, my class on calligraphy on fabric with Lisa Engelbrecht was very interesting and Friday night I began the two day class with David Taylor - which continued on Saturday. I am enormously impressed with his work which is visually glorious. I took the photo and drawing of my son at summer camp which I began at last year's Long Beach Festival in another class and think this time I may actually finish it. I'm not sure that it will be hand applique' - but I am quite inspired. David is charming and personable, a talented artist and a great teacher.

Sunday morning I tried my hand at "Accidental Landscapes" with Karen Eckmeier. It was a casual very enjoyable class using free cut curved fabric pieces layered into seascapes. It was great fun and a great technique. I came home with the central scene and in my studio added borders, fused applique' and beading and voila! a little finished art quilt - maybe a gift for a beach loving friend at Christmas. See it above! I'd love to try her technique again for other small landscape quilts.

In between classes there wasn't that much time to explore the show which didn't open until Friday. I tackled the exhibition quilts on Friday at lunch time and the vendors on the next day. I ran into my friend and art quilt minigroup companion Nancy and we did the quilts together. it's so much more fun to browse with someone! Nancy kindly took a photo of me with my quilt "Alright, Mr. Demille, I'm ready for My Close-up" exhibited in Silver Screen II (shown to the right )

I found the vendors a little disappointing on Saturday - seemingly hundreds of booths with much the same merchandise and ,frankly, a lot of junk.... I only bought a few fat quarters of hand dyed and batik cotton for my David Taylor class.

The highlight of Sunday afternoon was my two hour shift working at the SAQA booth. I arrived to find that my little quilt "Currents" which I had donated to the September SAQA on-line auction was hanging along with others in the booth. What a nice surprise! I met several SAQA members - Jamie Fingal, Jeanette Kelly among them - and it was so great to be able to put names with faces and spread the word about SAQA and the work it does to promote Art Quilters and their work. We sold several books and gave out a lot of information. I helped pack up the booth at closing and watched the process of taking down all the quilts and the vendors packing up. Just like closing night of an antique show - my other life.....

My one disappointment with the show was arriving on Wednesday and finding that my quilt "Night Flight" had not been brought from Houston and was not on exhibit in "Celebrate Spring"and would not be going on to Houston in October. I was told it was a "Glitch in the office" at Quilts, Inc. I'm afraid the situation colored some of my enjoyment of the show (More about this in a future post) but on the whole Long Beach was a wonderful experience and I am already looking forward to next year....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

June/ July in Southern California

Well, June flew by in a flash. I was very busy working on the Santa Monica Quilt Guild Quilt Show the early and middle of the month and took the rest of the month to recuperate. The show was very successful keeping in mind the state of the economy and will allow the Guild to bring a wonderful group of nationally known professional teachers to meetings and workshops over the next two years. The show looked fabulous - it was beautifully hung in the light and airy gymnasium at Loyola Marymount University. \ The quality of quilts exhibited by Guild Members was top notch and our featured quilter Sherry Kleinman provided a stellar display of her art quilts. As Treasurer and Awards and Prizes chair I was kept very busy....

Speaking of awards I was thrilled and more than a little embarrassed to learn that my quilt "Stairway to Heaven" (see its photo in a post below0 won three awards - Best Machine Quilting, Best use of Color and 2nd place Viewers' Choice. Another quilt "Alright, Mr. Demille, I'm ready for my Close-up" won Best Use of Embellishment. I was humbled.....

The good news continued after the show - I was thrilled and surprised to receive a fat envelope from Houston this year - "Stairway to Heaven" will be going there very soon as a finalist in "Quilts: A World of Beauty". I only wish I could get to Houston in October to see it hanging in all that illustrious company, but alas, it is not in the cards this year. Perhaps someone will snap a few photos of it for me...

I'm looking ahead to next week's International Quilt Festival at Long Beach. I've signed up for several classes including one with David Taylor and will be with quilting friends. Two of my quilts will be shown there which will be very exciting. "Alright Mr. Demille..." is in Silver Screen II and "Night Flight" is travelling with "Celebrate Spring" which debuted at Chicago in April.

In my "real" world of business all is pretty depressing right now, but in my quilting world everything is blooming!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

So Much Going On!

So much going on in my quilting world that it's time to sit down and talk!

Good news last week I learned that my quilt "Alright, Mr. Demille, I'm Ready For My Close-up" has been accepted into "Silver Screen II" which will debut at the Long Beach Quilt Festival here in Southern California this July. That makes two quilts for the show since my "Night Flight" was in the Chicago Festival's "Celebrate Spring" and will be traveling to Long Beach as well. I'll be taking classes at the Festival most of the week.

Award Winning art quilter B.J. Adams spoke at our regular Santa Monica Quilt Guild meeting last week. Her Power Point presentation was inspiring and highlighted both her amazing thread painting techniques and her incredible imagination. I was immediately drawn to her hyper realistic almost surrealistic images. The South Bay Quilters Guild sponsored a workshop with her the next day which I was thrilled to attend and learn her techniques with washaway stabilizer, fabric and tulle. I came away with just a few samples, but I can't wait to try more.....

We're down to the wire with less than 30 days to go before the Santa Monica Quilt Guild's Quilt Show - "Explorations". It's June 13th and 14th at Loyola Marymount University. I've been feverishly making purses and totes for the "Bag Boutique", entering my quilts, and serving as Treasurer and Awards and Prizes Chair.

I'm also happy to be packing up a lot of quilts for shipping to various venues including Sacred Threads and the Long Beach Quilt Festival. I'm also sending a quilt to Jean Biddick in Tucson which will be photographed for her new book for CT publishing on mosaic quilts. Very exciting to be almost published!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Two Projects Finished

The most fun this week was the monthly meeting of the my Art Quilt Group The Fiber Fanatics - always a happily anticipated meeting of seven of my friends - all talented and dedicated fiber artists with wicked senses of humor and all generous with constructive ideas and criticism. We meet once a month for a day of show and tell and lunch at a rotation of homes in West Los Angeles and I admit it is almost always the best day in the quilting month.

I had two finished projects to show. The first was from this year's trip to Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar in Pacific Grove. In Esterita Austin's five day class I translated a photograph of the beautiful 12th century Chapter House Stairs at Wells Cathedral in Southwest England with the use of fabric, thread and paint. The class was based on abstraction but my chosen photograph was not entirely suitable to abstracting the image. I decided to abstract it in color instead and chose hand dyes and batiks in purple, red orange and green . Esterita taught an unusual raw edge applique' technique. As always, I loved the beautiful winter week on the California coast and look forward to next year already.

The other finished quilt is a small version of part of my painted wholecloth quilt Magnolia Soulangiana which you can see by clicking on the photo below. A friend and member of my Guild in Santa Monica loved the original quilt and told me she'd love to have a small bit of it. I decided to surprise her with a little one which will be donated to our quilt auction at the upcoming Santa Monica Quilt Show in June. She's better bid on it!!

A beautiful Easter Sunday

It's been a beautiful week in Southern California topped by a gorgeous sunny, though cool Easter Sunday. The white Iceberg roses are going crazy in the front garden . some were cut this morning by my flower arranging husband for an Easter Brunch display.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Southern California SAQA Members Meet

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the hills of West Los Angeles, over 25 SAQA members finally met over lemonade, pecan tarts and lemon cupcakes at the home of Sandra Lauterbach. The meeting gathered art quilters from the far flung areas of Southern California - from Santa Barbara to Apple Valley, from Whittier to Santa Monica.

After some organizational business we went around the room introducing ourselves, our techniques and showing examples of work we had brought. Such a wealth of talent and expertise in one living room. It was truly inspiring. One member brought the original silk paintings and the first samples of her new fabric line for RJR. Truly beautiful!

It was agreed that SAQA meetings of this sort will be held initially every three months and will move around Southern California in order to make it as easy as possible for members to attend.

This was a great beginning.....

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Yesterday was a great day!

I spent most of yesterday at the Glendale Quilt show, a local southern California guild show held at the Marriott hotel at Burbank Airport. I was thrilled and amazed to realize that I had won two first place awards for the three quilts I had entered - one for traditional wall quilt (The Silk road) and another for Other Techniques (Magnolia Soulangiana). Thank you, Patt Blair and Ann Fahl , for your wonderful classes on painting wholecloth quilts with Tsukineko inks and thread painting on floral quilts! Thank you Becky McClure at Sewing Art Center for reminding me that there is nothing wrong with carefully piecing a traditional quilt now and then to take you back to the real roots of quilting.

As a new member of the Glendale Guild, I was responsible for two volunteer hours at the show and so I ended up as a "White Glove Lady" in one of the quilt exhibit aisles - a first time experience. Two hours of standing on over-50 hip joints was a trial, but I was so elated over my wins that the time actually went quickly and I only felt the pain later that night when I finally got to bed.

I was asked a load of questions and showed a load of quilt backs, but spent a lot of time just eavesdropping on the conversations between the visitors. I was really struck by how many people, obviously quilters, who were astounded at the courage to actually enter a quilt in a competition. Over and over I heard "I could never enter one of my quilts in a show like this" or
"I thought about entering one of my quilts, but I don't have the nerve " or "It must be so much work to enter a quilt..." .

I simply don't get it. I thought about why I spend a fair amount of time, energy and money preparing quilt entries. I never expect to win anything and it is a great happy surprise when occasionally I do, but I personally find it a very positive validating experience, just to have my quilt hung for the public in company with the work of so many talented quilters. I find the comments of judges invaluable - I hope my workmanship has improved because of them! I also have found great personal satisfaction in sharing my ideas and art (and that is what we do...) with a wider audience outside of my husband, son and close friends. I find it important to get my work out there - I learn something about quilting and something about myself every time...