Monday, 26 May 2014

Out & About: Reflections on the not-so-mean-streets of New York

Reflections on buildings are a very popular subject matter for textile artists and it is easy to see why.  The grid structures; the gradations in colour; the relation to quilt blocks and so on.  Plus they are fun to photograph.  I haven’t made any work using reflections yet (at least I don’t think I have), but I do love to photograph them. 

So when I arrived in New York, tired and at the end of a long day of travel a few weeks ago, I determined that I was going to make the most of my time there and headed out with my camera.  It was a lovely evening and the sun was beginning to set casting the most beautiful, quick changing reflections – something I don’t get to see living in a low rise Scottish village (although we do get the most amazing sunsets). 

New York felt very different from the last time I visited, sometime last century – it had a relaxed sense, perhaps because it was a Sunday evening and no one was rushing in a normal workday manner.  The streets were busy, but everyone seemed to be out enjoying the spectacle – maybe we were all tourists together!

Hopefully one of these photos can inspire you to make some new work this week.

Friday, 23 May 2014

In my studio: drawing Cycladic figures

What with my American adventures and the Loch Lomond Quilt Show and mildly sick children, I haven’t had much time for my own work recently.  However, I have started trying to draw every day. 

Traditional drawing has never been one of my strengths.  I think the most charitable thing any tutor has ever said about my drawing was ‘I drew really well with a camera’.  This is all well and good, but I do want to improve my drawing skills and although I’ll never be Picasso, by practice I can improve. 

At the Met Museum in New York, I was really excited to find a booklet solely on the ancient Greek figures that interest me, 'Art of the Aegean Bronze Age', so it had to come home with me (I did pay for it!).  I’ve been drawing the figures in it for approx 25 mins each time.  I’m not sure of any improvement yet, but I am pleased that I can really see the difference between the 10 minute sketch and the 25 minutes ones - can you tell?  

I hope if I can keep this up, it will start bearing fruit in my artworks, but we will have to wait and see.  It is a lovely calm way to start the day even if it has no obvious benefit...

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Out & About: Chinese Whispers at the Loch Lomond Quilt Show

Sheena Norquay 'Seapinks at Sandwick', 9th in her chain
I thoroughly enjoyed last week’s final Loch Lomond Quilt Show.  It is a shame that it had to be the final one, but I do understand why it had to end and I’m so pleased that the last one was a success.
Dorothy Deane 'Dutch Elm Disease', 6th in her chain
I had a great time talking to lots of quilters – over the nine Loch Lomond Quilt Shows I’ve been to I seem to have got to know a lot of people; eating good cakes and soup and, of course, seeing some fabulous quilts.  There were many highlights this year and the biggest exhibit by far was Chinese Whispers. 
Marjory McKinven, 'View from the Newsroom Window', 1st in her chain
For Chinese Whispers, 22 different groups of quilters took part, each with between 8 and 14 members.  The first person was given a photo of a pedestrian bridge across the river Clyde in Glasgow (if you watch BBC ‘Reporting Scotland’ you will know the iconic view), and was asked to make a quilt inspired by it, in a limited amount of time, within certain size restrictions.  This quilt, but not the photo was passed to the second person in the chain and so on.  There was great speculation over the past 18 months as to what the photo could be of, but the first quilters in the chain were sworn to secrecy.  
Mairi Wheeler 'West Coast North America', 2nd in her chain

The end results were predictably mixed but this did not lessen the enjoyment or the hilarity at trying to work out the jumps from one quilt to another.  One group very quickly moved from Glasgow to Edinburgh and had the Forth Road Bridge in a number of quilts.  There were chickens, elephant and peacocks and none of the final quilts bore any resemblance at all to the starting image.  It was fascinating.  I wasn’t able to take photos of all 250-odd quilts, but here is a small selection of them.
Diana Brown 'The Last Leaf', 10th in her chain

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Out & About: the final Loch Lomond Quilt Show

At the moment, I’m not getting to spend much time in my studio making as I seem to be gallivanting to quilt events all the time (life is really tough!).  Today the last ever Loch Lomond Quilt Show started and I spent the morning enjoying the huge variety of quilts.  In the fact, the variety was so bewildering, I haven’t taken many photos at all!  But there is plenty of time as I am going back tomorrow and Friday.
The Commonwealth Remembers - Coming Home (detail) by Senga Bain 
 Here are some of my favourites from the competition quilts.  Although it is only a detail of Senga Bain’s winning entry, you can see that it is absolutely stunning.  The design and execution are fantastic. 
Greek Island Seas by Marion Robertson
Marion Robertson has mixed a number of different types of fabric to make her quilt, which is all hand printed.  She is having an exhibition with her sister in Carradale, August Bank Holiday Weekend, which will be well worth a visit.  We’re taking our tent.
Colours of Burano by Frieda Oxenham
I love Frieda’s work and this year’s entry looked deceptively simple, but her signature beads are still there and the hand quilting is beautiful, deservedly winning the hand quilting award.
Firelight by Jane Appelbee

Finally, I just love how Jane Appelbee has manipulated and coloured her fabric to give the idea of flames.  It is superbly made.

More to follow from the Loch Lomond Show, when I finally stop talking to people I know (part of the joy of this show is how friendly it is) and hunker down and photograph some quilts.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Out & About: AQS Paducah - more wonderful pictures

Dotting Inside the Box by Sandi Snow.  Seen at AQS Quilt Week Paducah.
Here is some more fantastic eye candy from AQS Quilt Week in Paducah.  
Millefiori by Sherry Rogers Harrison, with Bonnie Browning (left), Show Director.  Seen at AQS Quilt Week Paducah.
And as an added bonus, some of the makers were also present so you can match the quilt with the maker.  Do you think that quilts reflect the maker’s personality?  I’m not sure because in that case I have a bit of split personality: my art quilts use a muted palette, but the quilts I make for fun tend to be very colourful.
Mistaken Identity by Gail Stepanek and Jan Hutchison.  Seen at AQS Quilt Week Paducah.
I assume it is partly to protect the makers’ copyright that the winner’s rosettes cover so much of the quilts, but as a photographer/blogger/writer, it drives me nuts! 
Bradfor Fantasy #1 by Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry.  Seen at AQS Quilt Week Paducah.
I’ve just been going through my Paducah images to pull together an article for Popular Patchwork on the Show and I’m having a hard time narrowing the choice down.  My initial pick is 20, but as a reader I prefer fewer but bigger images, so I can see more detail.  What is your preference on a feature summarising a quilt show?
The Value of Gears by Judith Phelps.  Seen at AQS Quilt Week Paducah.

Unfortunately all of the miniature quilts were under glass to protect them, so there was no way to photograph them without getting glare from the overhead lights.  This is a shame as they were truly outstanding – not just the winners.  Several of them used pieces smaller than my little finger nail.  I admire the skill and dedication, but didn’t come away feeling it was something I could try.  I struggle to be accurate with larger pieces and prefer free piecing, so I don’t think it is in my nature.

Magnolia by Slyvia Gegaregian.  Seen at AQS Quilt Week Paducah.

Tesoro Escondido by Patricia Kennedy-Zafred.  Seen at AQS Quilt Week Paducah.
Poet of the Forest by Tamie Hashida.  Seen at AQS Quilt Week Paducah.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Out & About: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

The lovely waterfall at the NGA, helped by all the rain that day!
As well as textile related things (more of which to follow), I also spent some of my American time in various museums.  I had a day and a half in Washington DC and thought I may do some sightseeing after I went to the Smithsonian museums.  However, I was enjoying the museums I visited so much, I ran out of time to see all the museums, let alone more of DC.

Approach to Venice by Turner

Coast near Antibes by Cross
I started with the National Gallery of Art.  Unfortunately the modern wing was closed, but there was still sufficient to keep me going to almost a full day in just the 19th and 20th century pictures on display.
Head of a woman by Modigliani
These are some of my favourite pieces.  I loved the Modigliani sculpture, which reminded me that I am not the first artist to be inspired by ancient Greek Cycladic sculptures. 
Green Wheat Fields, Auvers by Van Gogh, the new acquisition
There were a number of Van Gogh paintings, one of which was a new acquisition and I don’t think I’d seen it before.  I have seen an awful lot of Van Gogh paintings, so this was a lovely pleasure.
Girl in White by Van Gogh
A real highlight was a special exhibition of Garry Winogrand photographs.  His composition was amazing and there was a lovely letter from his second wife complaining about how feckless he was and how she was running out of time to have children (she was 28...).  The photos certainly recorded the States during the 1950-70s in an entertaining and thoughtful fashion.
So if you get the chance, do visit the National Gallery of Art, especially when both wings are open.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Out & About: SAQA Conference

Yvonne Porcella, the first President of SAQA, with one of her quilts
I’m finally back home after an amazing two week trip in America.  After Paducah, I spent a few days in New York, mainly in the Met Museum and then I went onto Washington DC, where I spent more time in museums and at the SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associates) annual conference.
Katie Pasquini Masopust, the second President of SAQA, with one of her quilts
I’ve got loads to share and intended to do so whilst I was on the road, but I couldn’t download the photos from my ‘proper’ camera until I got home and I didn’t want to short change you with them less good ones – especially as the artwork and quilt-work I saw was astounding.  So I will be posting on this trip for a while.
Judith Content, the third President of SAQA, with one of her quilts
The SAQA conference was held just outside Washington at Alexandria, right by the river.  It was a lovely location.  I was slightly concerned about going by myself, but I needn’t have worried as many others were in the same position and we all met some great people.  Activities included artist speed dating to get to know other attendees, various talks and I had a quilt critique session, which threw up some ideas and opinions I had not considered, so it was very valuable.
Sandra Sider, the fifth President of SAQA, with one of her quilts
These photos are from the Sunday morning session.  SAQA is 25 this year and five out of six of the ladies who have served as president were at the conference.  They all shared one quilt they had made whilst they were president, whilst talking about the impact being a member of SAQA and its presidency had on their lives.  It was fascinating and also rather funny.  It also emphasised the old (but true) adage: the more you put into something, the more you get out of it. 
Kris Sazaki, the six and current President of SAQA, with one of her quilts

If you get a chance to go the SAQA conference, I would highly recommend it.  I met so many wonderful people who are doing really interesting art and I’ve come back super-charged-up and raring to go... once I get over the jet-lag of course!
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