Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Mother Always Said

Dorry is always coming up with creative new ideas for quilters, and now, in the middle of organizing Something Blue,  a show of quilts at the ArtSpace Herdon gallery starting in mid-January, she has another. (A click on the show title will take you to the ArtSpace Event page.) With just over a month before the show's opening, she issued a challenge on the theme of something your mother would say. The quilt was to be 12 inches square and was to include the color blue.

My mother, like all mothers, had her favorite sayings, but hers weren't the typical ones at all.  She would say, "Decisions, decisions!" when you were trying to make up your mind. She would say, "First mistake I ever made" whenever she made one.  She would say, "I'm in the garbage!" when you came home and called out, "Mom, where are you?" I asked a couple of my siblings for help to get a saying I could make a quilt from.

Brother Roger came up with "Learn something new every day" which he remembers both my mother and her mother saying.  Mom would say "You learn something new every day" whenever something she hadn't heard of before came in front of her, but I chose to use it as my brother quoted it - more as a piece of motherly advice.  In this age of lists of recommendations for how to age better, learning new skills - both physical and mental - is always at the top.

Norris and I are constantly looking for ways to expand our brains and physical skills. So I set out to make a quilt using techniques I have never tried before, and came up with painting with water color dyes on silk.  I had recently purchased both the Derwent Inktense pencils and some mix-with-water fabric dyes.

I knew enough not to try to make my first piece be the final one. I thought the blue part of the quilt would be the Blue Ridge mountains and started experimenting on a 6 inch square piece of silk ironed to freezer paper. This is a cropped view of that effort - the other edges have color experiments on them.

I started with that purple which got away from me right away, and I didn't like the pencil lines in the sky, but the blue and black mountains and the foliage part are not too bad.

My next effort was 6 x 12 inches and I already had much better control of the flow of color for the mountains.
But then I was unhappy with the limit of the colors I could get with my 6 Inktense pencils and borrowed Derwent Watercolour pencils and Graphitint pencils from my friend Ellen. I experimented a bit more and I thought I was ready to try my hand at the real deal.  Here's a crop of the upper half of that effort.

I was really happy with my sky technique by this time. I was working slowly, only on dry areas, so I also did some on the lower part of the scene, with the foliage. I know that watercolors bleed, but this time, I created such a sharp line of green where I didn't want it and it couldn't be fixed. I also only at this stage realized that the new pencil colors reacted and spread differently than the ink ones I started with.

I considered cutting this piece apart and appliqueing other fabric on top of my water color mountains for the foliage, but by this time I concluded this scene was too complicated for a beginning fabric painter like me, and went to Plan B.

The bluebird was Mom's favorite. With this simpler image using fewer colored layers, I could outline the original bird with black thread and make something recognizable.  I liked the butterflies print for the binding as it has the blue and the touch of purple I used for tinting the sky.

I quilted my bluebird on a floral backing that also included blue and purple and a hint of the pink-red.

Now I'm curious to see what the other quilters' mothers always said and how they interpreted those words into a quilt.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A few Last Words and Pictures from Atlanta

We decided to stop for lunch on our way into Atlanta on Thursday. Judi the Navigator and intrepid Smart-Phone User started down a list of cuisines.  We stopped her on Chinese because if there is a really good Chinese restaurant in our area, none of us knows about it.  What we also didn't know was that Duluth, where we found ourselves, is a known foodie-haven. Lucky for us!

Judi's searches led her to a recommendation for Golden House and she got us there easily. The entry way was promising....

...but we were not prepared for the beautiful dining area. The chairs seem to be decked out for a party, and look at that ceiling!  Golden House serves dim sum on weekdays so that's what we had.

Susie, Judi, Cindy
We seemed to be the only anglo-customers, but the staff was really helpful and pleasant, steering us away from the chicken feet and to the dishes we would like. We thoroughly enjoyed a plate of snow pea greens, something none of us had ever tried. I took this photo of one of our servers - notice the stage in the background.

Golden House in Duluth is most definitely on the list for a visit on a return trip.

On Friday after our visit to re:loom, we thought it would be appropriate for a group of knitters to visit a yarn shop. Judi again had a list - we picked the one in Decatur for two reasons.

The first reason was who wouldn't love the name Sheepish for a yarn shop?

The store was no longer at the location on the list we'd seen, but was only about two blocks away. The owners are working with the local animal shelter and had cute little foster kittens and their mom, as well as a shop cat, so that was fun to talk about.

The other reason for visiting Sheepish was that its Decature location coincided with this shop - 

Hard to read the name in my photo, but it's Wild Oats and Billy Goats, a folk art gallery that carries the re:loom rugs - among other treasures. Decorating the sidewalk are a great example - those are yard sculptures - pigs and totem poles - made from propane tanks.

Altogether our trip was a big success  - we'd all do it again!

Monday, December 16, 2013

re:loom - an environmentally friendly fiber-based industry with a heart

Friday morning we headed to the retail space of re:loom. The building was tucked back from the road under other businesses

but well worth finding.  On the beautiful postcard, it says "re:loom employs and empowers homeless and low-income individuals through weaving beautiful, one-of-a-kind products out of upcycled materials. re:loom is a program of the Initiative for Affordable Housing in Atlanta, GA." You can read more about them on their website, http://reloom.org/ but I took a lot of pictures for you to enjoy right here.

The retail space was a good sized room packed with the products the weavers of re:loom make - you can see stacks of rugs here

and more rugs, placemats, and bags of all shapes and sizes here.

 I dug through the blues and greens and pulled out this medium sized one, modeled back home by Lilly.

Lilly shooed Lu off the rug so she could enjoy it. The color of the wide stripe seems a little bluer in real life than in these photos.  It is already doing its job in my studio with Moki so Lilly can't hug it any more.

We all spent some money in the store, then headed to the Weavehouse, a short drive away.

The raw materials other than the warps for the re:loom rugs and other products are donated. These include fabrics, as you see in the next photo taken in the cutting room, as well as plastic - bags from retailers and those one-use light plastic banquet table covers. The plastic rugs are just as colorful as the rag ones, and suitable for outdoor use.

This is the other side of the cutting room.
All the cutting is done by volunteers. They use fabric, but also clothing, after removing seams, but little is wasted. Smaller strips from garment sleeves make it into smaller items, like checkbook covers and clutches. 

Tucked in one corner of the cutting room was one of the weavers working on a smaller loom. Except for a table in the laundry area for a break area, every bit of space is given to production.

After cutting, the fabric is rolled up into balls, sorted by color and fiber, and stacked up in bins on shelves in the center of the Weavehouse.

Then we came to the main weaving space.

Fred is working at the largest loom on the floor. They have 80 yards of warp on the loom.

The weavers were pleased to show us what they were working on. The looms were all donated, and are named for the donors.

Notice the blue jeans pockets sewn on the rugs on the walls behind where the weavers work. They have all the tools they need handy.

Fred wanted to make sure I got a good photo of him - he probably wove my rug.

One of these two men certainly wove it. Because it is such a wide warp, they make all the larger rugs. Fred was happy to tell you he knew nothing about color and design when he started his job at re:loom about two years ago but he's clearly delighted with it now.

re:loom mostly employs people with no prior knowledge of weaving, pays them a living wage and provides health insurance. The products cost more than the imports we buy at big box stores, but the workers make fabric that will last, and they are extremely conscientious about getting beautiful straight edges!

The bright orange fabric was donated by Delta Airlines and comes from expired life jackets. Delta donated the fabric and bought back items to give to their employees.

I like this color wheel prominently posted in the area with the bins of prepared fabric.

More finished items were stacked up everywhere.

Do you see a rug that would fit in your house?

Maybe a sturdy pillow?

The soft blue and black wool scarf used to be a plaid skirt.

Our guide was the manager of the Weavehouse.  She was explaining the fabric on the table beside her to the weavers in our group is an experiment with finer fabric, possibly for baby wraps.

Here's our happy group in the middle of the Weavehouse floor.

Cheryl, Susie, Cindy, Judi

Sunday, December 15, 2013

An evening in a magical garden

After meeting Karen and seeing her work, we headed to the nearby Atlanta Botanical Garden to see the Garden Lights. This event resembles the holiday lights shows we have seen other places, but because of the artful way the lights are incorporated into the gardens, it was a magical experience.

We got there at dusk and followed the tour as recommended, with our first stop at the Ice Goddess.

She almost looks photoshopped, but I think you get that impression from the way all those lights are clustered. We all agreed we had not seen such an intense display of blue lights before.  We asked a fellow visitor to take a photo of the four of us.

Cindy, Susie, Cheryl and Judi

The designers at this show did not stay with the traditional themes of nutcrackers, elves, and toy trains - there were two of these giant green and red cobras.

And (out of sequence) there was an "edible garden" - this part had row upon row of lighted corn stalks.

This next photo shows the Orchestral Orbs on the Great Lawn. The dark boxes are speakers. The orbs changed colors in time with the music, in a symphonic sequence. The music alternated from classical to rock and jazz seasonal tunes.

Behind the orbs is the Conservatory. It was a cold night, so going into the tropical rain forest environment inside was a very nice way to warm our fingers and toes, but it was also a simply incredible visual delight. The photo below is quite possibly from a different display, but it conveys the way the fiber optics worked in the first area we walked through, where we became part of the display as little points of green light shone down on us.

By the time we got halfway through the garden, Susie was the only one with enough battery power left on her phone to take photos, but I decided not to post all of them  - you'll just have to plan a visit to Atlanta at Christmas to see this event for yourself. This year, the display will be up until January 4th.

A visit with a Quilt Artist

On Thursday, three knitting friends and I headed to Atlanta for an overnight trip. The timing in December was to see the work of Karen Reese Tunnell at the South East Fiber Arts Alliance office and exhibit space.

Karen's work was nothing less than mind blowing.  I had visited her website (karentunnell.com) and seen photos in her gallery, but I was not prepared for the impact of the pieces when seen in real life. The subtle dimension of quilted texture and the vividness of her marbled backgrounds just don't come across in a photo, and I really couldn't understand the "applique" element she described when talking about her work on her website.

I forgot my camera but my friends shared photos with me so I could write my blog post. Some of these pieces may be on her website, but I wanted to have my own closeups so I can share some of the details here.

Karen has a series of tree trunks in these shades of blue and green on similarly colored marbled backgrounds.

This is just a small section of a very long (over 7 feet) narrow (1.5 feet) framed piece.

I cropped a bit here so you can see in closeup that the trees, enhanced with paint, are appliqued on her background. Embroidery adds another layer. The entire piece is machine quilted on a sturdy layer of felt and it floats above the linen ground of the frame.

Karen explained that she does not want us to actually be able to see a difference between the original marbled piece and what was appliqued to it.  With the trees, up close you can tell, but in many examples, she has invisibly hand appliqued marbled texture on marbled texture, and the lines just blend together.

This quilt show a different style. Karen was a painter before she was a fiber artist.

This closeup shows some of the detail of the painted bird. 

Karen's painted babies were beautiful.  (These next three photos came to me in a small size so there is no close up view.)

Here's a photo of me with Karen in front of one of her many strikingly beautiful works. Doesn't that look like the fabric is tucked or pleated?  It's not.

After listening to Karen talk about her work and her processes, and the classes she teaches (she's coming back to Asheville next fall) she invited us to her Mid-Town condo where we enjoyed the view from the roof of the building.

Cheryl, Karen Tunnel, Cindy and Susie. Judi is the photographer.

 It was cold up there, but we had a great time and left inspired.

I'll have more photos from the Atlanta trip in a couple of future posts.