Sunday, March 2, 2014

Working in a Series, My Journey to be an Art Quilter.

An artist, Sherry, in our Fyber Cafe group, was concerned with the idea of working in a series. She has gotten a new book by Elizabeth Barton on the subject. She wanted to know if any one wanted to work through the exercises with her. If you had asked me last week, if I worked in a series I would have said "Heck NO!" Not me, I have never done that purposefully, have I? But hindsight gives me a different perspective, I have indeed worked in many series, over my long years of quilting. Hindsight did not just slap me in the face, it wacked me upside my head.

Even before I called myself an "Art Quilter," I suppose it started with "Watercolor" quilts. Once you start cutting up 2" squares to blend, you always have leftovers. So you make another quilt, and another, using up and cutting more squares. I tried to find different ways to blend the squares, shading patterns, and using them as backgrounds for applique.
This led to a similar technique of using two inch squares from one fabric to create wreaths and bouquets. You needed a special fabric and I taught classes in this technique.

I have always loved to applique and Elly Seinkewizc's Baltimore Applique appealed to me. I started making 3-D flowers, and my own patterns, and advanced to Kumiko Sudo's 3-D Japanese style flowers. I taught many classes on hand making flowers, beading the centers of the flowers, got me to like embellishing.

My quilting adventures transformed into the journey to become an "Art Quilter." Using raw edge applique, I succumbed to the idea, that it was ok to have a fraying eyelash on the edge of my applique patch, instead of the crisp precision of Baltimore applique. I followed Susan Carlson's approach to making fish, a series of fantasy fish, five trout wall hangings using hand painted backgrounds, I worked in a series as I explored fabric painting, adding layers of foliage for depth, and telling a story with "Ashlee's Toes." Two bass quilts followed and the tropical fish and reef series followed next.
My underwater ocean art quilts grew more and more complex as I added corals, new fish, octopus, building a complex landscape and ecosystem of a coral reef. Turtles, dolphins and whales followed, with rays of light reaching to the depths. I found that I loved to embellish as I sewed on real sea shells to the sandy bottoms. I explored this style for a long time, playing with light, depth, layering, color and composition.
I continued to use raw edge applique for quiet a while, as my hands got more arthritic, and I could not hand sew as much. I still love the look of hand applique, and use it for very special work, but it is not practical for me anymore. A series of landscape art quilts followed. I forgot about these, as many of them sold as quick as I could make them. Trees, scenery, deer and other critters, walled gardens, deserts, lakes and forests, this subject is endless. It is definitely working in a series, how could I not think that? I collected "landscape print fabrics," trees, rocks, textures, wood, leaves, grasses, a huge stash of fabrics collected as I made this my go to technique.
At the request of a quilt shop owner on the coast, I made a series of Lighthouse wall hangings, to sell in her shop. They were purposefully made as I collected photos of Oregon Lighthouses, created patterns, and hand painted skies. As I worked out perspective, design, adding foregrounds and hand painting backgrounds, and adding embellishments. I just thought of this as working in a favorite technique, my go to style, each was an original design that I created to make art. This is a series and I am an artist!

For the last several years my "Goal" was to use my photos in my art quilts, in as many ways as possible. I had made traditional photo transfer quilts of my Dad's Dahlias, family photos, and a 50th anniversary quilt. But now with my new digital camera, I wanted to use my original photos in art quilts. You can see the transition as I explored the series of floral quilts, thread painting my photos and creating a collage of landscape photos.
I never thought of it as working in a series, it was just my goal. Thread painting a photo, I say "if the photo is worth a 1000 words, it is certainly worth a 1000 yards of thread!" Now I have begun to use my photos for patterns, as the basis for my applique quilts, creating situations from my photos that tell a story, or details of my own garden flowers. A whole new world of art has opened up to me, as I continue to explore themes, techniques, styles and new ideas. Manipulating photos in Photoshop is my next "Goal" as I learn to use the program more thoroughly.
One author asked in her book, "What is your style?" Something that is recognizable as "Your" quilt art. I never thought I had a style, I jumped from one project and technique to another, to the next project. I have many projects going at once and not always finishing them, before jumping into the next that catches my attention. Then one day it dawned on me, my recognizable style was my intense machine quilting/thread painting with rayon threads. It complimented my landscapes, portraits, florals, photos and painted/printed projects, tying them all together as "My Style." I think this also ties my series together, as I explore each technique and each theme. Wether I call them sets, goals or favorite techniques, it is still "working in a series." So a series becomes and on going project, as you add to it, revisiting a favorite technique (Gelli printing) or a favorite theme(undersea coral reefs) or starting a new series, 3-Dimensional work, from my photos of nature or the beach. I'm really looking forward to the next new series!
P.S. I also have series in Vintage Fabric, Reproduction 1920-30's, Silk Flowers & Fairies, Stained Glass, Hand Dyed fabrics, Fabric Painted Portraits, Floral Applique, Oriental Fabrics & Shashiko, Gelli Prints, Scrap Quilts, Silk Ribbon & Crazy Quilts, Redwork Embroidery, 40 years of exploring this ever changing world of textile arts. I hope you enjoyed this journey I have taken over the years to create the artist that I am today. Beginning with a class in hand piecing with Roberta Horton when I was in High school in the early 70's to Playing with technology like Photoshop in the new millennium. Thanks for checking out my blog!

I am linking this to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Friday" click on the badge on the right to see what other wonderful textile artists are doing.


  1. An interesting trip through your past works. I think that book is probably in my future. :-)

  2. Self awareness... you do work in series unconsciously. It has a lot of merit! What a show!
    LeeAnna Paylor
    Not Afraid of Color!