Friday, April 18, 2014

Minimal Quiltmaking

Just in the nick of time Gwen Marston's new book Minimal Quiltmaking arrived. I ordered it back in October and kept receiving postcards from AQS that it was on its way, but surprise, surprise, surprise an email came that it shipped late last week. After my recent rejections--yes two--I've been drawing and painting and not so interested in quilting, but all of that has changed and I am back on the quilt-making bandwagon banging a drum!

First, Ms. Marston is my absolute favorite quilt-maker. I have a lot of her books and purchased this one even though I did not think it would appeal to me. Wrong! Like most, if not all, of Marston's books this is not a pattern book--which I love because I have no intention of using another designer's pattern. She does show how to make some of the "parts" so one can incorporate them into their own designs.

The book has 8 chapters, each containing enough eye candy to give you a sugar rush, which is exactly what happened to me. I really got excited thinking about a minimal/modern quilt design. (Marston has that effect on me.) She also goes back to her book 37 Sketches by showing fabric sketches of ideas that became larger quilts. Here is an example of the working sketch next to the quilt. In the 37 Sketches book you only see the sketches, not the quilts that may have been derived from them.

Marston, Gwen, "Minimal Grid, Small Study, #56, " 2013
from Gail Garber Designs (blog)
Another thing that Marston does is get the reader excited about Modern Artists, Josef Albers, Wassiily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Ellsworth Kelly, and Frank Stella. Not mentioned in the book, but an artist that I have recently become familiar with and has inspired ideas for my quilt-making, is Markus Linnenbrink.

Linnenbrink, Markus, "Myself Outside," 2003
Photo from Hammer Museum website
Even the Hard-Edge Quilts, quilt-making that requires some accuracy and straight lines got me excited. In the chapter "Minimal Quilts Inspired by Art" there was a pair of quilts by two woman that really stood out for me: "Interaction with Color," by Deb Albright, and "It's Transparent to Me," by Kathy Sandling. They both used the narrow black and white (in the case of Sandling, gray and white) striping that I love and it really worked out well.

The only thing that I thought was not so great about this book was the book itself. It is a 95 page, 8.5" x 11" paperback that feels more like an expensive magazine than a paperback book. I hope that this is because Marston received more of the $24.95 cost in her paycheck than the publisher received by reducing the quality of the physical book.

Another great read from Gwen Marston.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Gwen Maleson

I came across Gwen Maleson's work through a John Thornton video. I really love the subtle colors she uses and the use of birds in most of her work. She notes that she has been inspired by Charlie Harper and it is his work that I first thought of when I saw hers. I am also reminded of the work of Edna Andrade, another PAFA alumna (Maleson completed her MFA at PAFA) in its graphic, precise execution. Maleson is a bird watcher and like a lot of us, has decided to incorporate that passion in her work.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Information about Conserving Quilts

Someone was kind enough to forward the following link to me about conserving quilts. I thought it might be of interest. Click here.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Great Little Tool

When I was at my husband's aunt's house one day, in her sewing room, I saw a tool on her table that I recognized immediately. (Zia Gloria was Rena Rowan's Assistant Designer at Jones New York since the beginning until Zia Gloria's retirement.) It was a tool I was asked to purchase while in college to use with a pick glass, linen tester, or thread loupe to count the number of threads in a woven fabric or the number of stitches and rows in knitted fabric. It looks like a stiletto, but it is tapered and is called a scriber.

Shown here with the point safely inside


Shown here with the point ready for use.

See how it is tapered?

My aunt has one that is a little bigger (size 81) but immediately I grabbed it and asked why she had one. She uses it as a seam ripper. I, almost 30 years after graduation, still had it and dug it out. Mine is a little smaller (size 83). I only recently started using it and love it. It is probably the best seam ripper you will ever use.

Slide the point under a stitch in the row you want to rip.

Lift the tool to break the stitch.

Repeat in a few places.

Place the point under a stitch in the run and pull out the thread.

Viola! You have one long thread on the back that just comes away! (Don't you love pulling out that thread in one motion?)

Sometimes the simplest tools are the best.

You can buy one here.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Trials and Tribulations of Competitions

I recently submitted a quilt to be included in a book that is due out in 2015. I really admire the artist's work and thought it would be really exciting to have my quilt published. My work was not chosen, and although I am naturally disappointed, I understand that everyone’s work cannot be included. The following paragraph was in the rejection letter (I have made a few edits and paraphrased to protect the confidentiality of the book that is not yet published).

You may enter your quilt into exhibitions that are scheduled to occur in 2015, but please attribute that it was based on quilt  instructions from the “Name of the Book” by (Name of the Author).

This is the first handmade item I have submitted for a competition, so I am not familiar with the usual rules and regulations. Maybe I am getting all worked up over nothing, but my response to this request is "why does the author and the publisher have the right to infringe on my right to enter the quilt in competitions or exhibitions in 2014?" I guess because if I had to give credit as requested above I am giving away something from the book before the publication date. But that is what disturbs me most-- that the instruction given was really basic and nothing that in the least resembles a pattern: create a quilt without any idea of the outcome and keep building on the design by using curved pieces, darts, and straight seams without a ruler. I really don’t think this type of direction merits any attribute to the author. The design is absolutely and entirely mine from the choice of colors, choice of using solids vs. patterned fabrics, the choice of shapes cut from the fabric, placement of cut fabric in relation to other pieced fabrics, and everything else including the choice of binding and size (the only requirement was that the quilt had to be at least 36" on each side). Actually the author's directions instructed me to design my own quilt. Since I did not agree to credit the author for the design of this quilt if it was not chosen when I submitted it for this project, I find it really offensive that it was asked of me in the letter of rejection.

If I do what I am asked I get to be part of an on-line forum when the book is published where I can help promote this book through social media, and posting about it on my blog for the chance to win a copy of the book in a drawing. (If my quilt was accepted to be included in the book I would have been guaranteed a copy.) 

As you may know I work in an arts institution, so I talked to a couple of people about it. One of the people equated the situation to a juried show that asked for paintings using the color green. You submit your green painting, they decline it and then they ask you to let everyone know that the “Green Painting Juried Show” should be credited with the fact that your painting is green!

I guess this all goes back to the argument of stealing people's designs and who gets credit for what. Let me first say that it is my opinion that NOTHING IS ORIGINAL. (Read "Steal Like an Artist") I find that the people who complain the most about their designs being stolen are those who were most likely inspired by someone else's work. I try to be as original as possible--giving credit when my work is so obviously inspired by someone else's work because a compliment of one of my "original pieces" means nothing if the design is actually a reproduction of somebody's work.  

Whether you want to admit it or not, you have been inspired by something you saw somewhere else that has been captured in the recesses of your mind and found its way to the surface at some later moment. So even the paragraph above stating that the design of this quilt is entirely mine is not entirely true. It was inspired by African American quilters, Gwen Marston, Amish quilt-makers, and Ottavio Missoni (who was a brilliant knitwear designer who made narrow black and white stripes popular--yes, those stripes you see in everyone's quilts were actually a machine knitter's idea, or at least that is where I first fell in love with them in the 80's). I hate to say it, but the person I was least inspired by--except for the binding--was the author. I chose to use a knife-edge method of binding that I saw on her blog.

So I ask the publisher and the author to stop being so self-important when it comes to ideas and designs. This new book may be hailed as the best book about quilting in the world, but it is not brain surgery, and there will be nothing in this book that isn't already out there in some form or another. 

OK, I hope I don't trip and fall stepping off my soapbox.