Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Art Quilters: What Happens Behind the Scene

Hello, thought I might give you a peak at our art quilt group meeting! I belong to the Austin Art Quilt Bee. Pictured from left to right are Leslie Tucker Jenison, Susan Storey Lewis, Connie Hudson, Sherri Mc Cauley, Barb Forrister, Natalie Jenison and Kathy York. Most of us live in Austin but we also are fortunate to have Leslie from San Antonio, Texas and Frances Holliday Alford from Grafton, Vermont. We gather together to work on group collaborations. This is an amazing group of women and although, we do not meet on a regular schedule, when we do get together, we are celebrating the holidays or are in high gear working on our next project. Each of us have our own unique style that we bring to the table and yet somehow we are always able to blend our work together to come up with some pretty cool compositions. This year is no different, We are working on a rock quilt and are now in the design stages. The background has already been quilted and pieced and the rocks have been created. Now comes the fun part; the design process. Pictured below is our third revision of the design and still, it may not be the end product. We will move and rearrange things until we come to a general concensus that we all find pleasing to the eye. Once we conclude the design process, we will address how to finish the edges. This quilt has an irregular edge on the bottom which I believe allows the eye to move freely around the piece and adds interest. This week, we will meet up again to reinforce the seams on the background and hopefully come up with the final design. The most wonderful thing I have experienced working as part of the group is that we are all committed to creating art collaborations and supporting one another in our own personal and art endeavors. That is a very unique and endearing aspect of which I am blessed to be a part of. I hope that this post offers insight as to what it is like to belong to an art quilt group that fosters love and support and enjoys creating art together. To read more about our group, please visit .

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Reflections on Judging Quilt Shows

I have just returned from judging a quilt show. A few days later, I have decided that in sharing my experiences, I have a chance to reflect and also, perhaps offer some helpful insight as to what judges look for when they are looking at quilts. That said, I can say is that it is not an easy job and sometimes winners are chosen based on technical workmanship rather than what the judge may really like. In other words, had this been an art show, I might have chosen very different winners for some of the categories. This being a quilt show, I was asked to look at the workmanship along with the design principles of each quilt. There were a few quilts that had excellent design qualities but were not executed well in terms of stitchwork, binding and yes, even appearing square from a distance.  I began with each category by systematically doing a quick walk through to see the entire category as a whole. In this way, I could get a good idea of which quilts really caught my eye from a distance. Then, I began with the first one and using a judge's form began looking at each piece. In terms of design and workmanship, I was asked to address 10 issues: 1) Did the quilt appear square? I don't mean did the quilt have exact parallel measurements on opposite sides but rather did it appear to be square? 2)Were the bindings well executed? The number one thing, I have experienced with judges is that they always seem to comment on whether the binding is full. I tend not to care so much about this but rather on whether the binding appears even and the corners are mitered well. 3) Does the quilt lie flat or is it distorted? Many times, this will relate to #1, does the quilt appear square? Often, when a quilt does not lay flat, it appears distorted and not square. This can be due to heavy stitching and embroidery work or lack thereof. 4) Are the stitches even for the most part? Here, I tend to place emphasis on whether the stitches are overall consistent with one another rather than determining how many stitches there are per inch. 5) Was the quilting uniform throughout? I know that this is a very controversial issue and that most judges like to see a uniform amount of stitching throughout the entire piece. It is my feeling however, that dense quilting in the background provides depth while a change in scale both in the mid and foreground stitching offers a more 3 dimensional feel and I am fine with that. In fact, I support it! Though as I mentioned, my views on this matter do not reflect the norm.  6) Is the workmanship with regards to piecing and appliqueing executed well? If given my druthers, I would not even look at this aspect unless it was done extremely poorly. However, as a quilt judge, we are asked to assess this aspect and so we must. 7) Is the tension consistent throughout? To be truthful, unless there are major problems with ticking or knots on the back, I tend to think it is not an issue. 8) Is the design pleasing? Does it catch your eye and draw you in? This is so important and often overlooked. We tend to think that pleasing colors offer a pleasing design. Not so! Color is important but it does not replace design. Rather it works to support the design. Designs should be well balanced and move the eye successfully around the quilt, thus drawing in the viewer. 9) Is there a good range of color value within the quilt? There was in fact, a piece that was completed all in a medium value color range and consequently appeared flat and difficult to look at. I think the eye becomes overwhelmed when value is not used successfully. 10) Lastly, I like to provide a comment on each sheet to let the maker know what he/she is doing successfully. I find that positive critique when done honestly and genuinely, fosters a healthy and positive outlook. At the conclusion of the judging, we were asked to name our own Judge's Choice and confer with each other regarding Best of Show. I chose an art quilt that was very well executed for my Judge's Choice and we named a tradional quilt, Best of Show as the workmanship was phenomenal! I had a most pleasant experience and hope that I may once again be asked to judge a show. I love looking at all the quilts whether they be art quilts or traditional! Each one has it's own merit! 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Creating Fiber Art Rocks for Cairns

I have been working on making rocks for a group collaboration project with my art quilt group. At this point, the background has been quilted and pieced together with a zig zag stitch. We gathered together to square up the quilt and begin stacking rocks to make Cairns. We have a pretty good idea of what the quilt will look like. Here, I have my rocks on a black background but in fact, they will be placed on a neutral light colored pieced background. My group has been extremely patient with me as I am just now finishing my rocks. You may remember, I fell and broke my left arm. I am now in a splint and I have managed to finish my entry for the juried invitational, Rituals. It was time to move forward and begin making rocks. I have returned to working in the studio again, however, not as much as I would like! The healing process is slow but it is getting better! This was a wonderful way to ease back into the swing of things. I first began by layering scraps of hand dyed and commercial fabrics on batting. I sewed around each rock, placed a piece of fabric (for the backing) right sides together with the rockface and again sewed the entire sandwich together. Edges were trimmed and a slit was cut in the back of each rock so that it could be turned right side out. The rocks were pressed with a hot iron and I began painting them with acrylic paints to make them look a little more realistic. Some of the rocks were texturized with bits of thread and fiber bits fused on top with Mistyfuse. They were then quilted with decorative threads to add texture and interest. The photos below show some detail shots that I hope you will enjoy. Please let me know what you think. I would love to hear your thoughts!