We recently returned from a vacation in the Caribbean. It was a cruise on a Viking ocean going ship.  They have recently added ocean cruises to their well known line up of river cruises.

I didn’t know if I’d like it. 900 plus people sounded like a lot for a ship, but that turned out to be “small” in comparison to the companies that pack in 5000 plus! And — I was hesitant about the “cruise” format — to breeze in and out of an island in one day — what can you get to know about it?

It turns out, quite a bit.

There were plenty of folks who came for the sun and sand, and that’s all.

But there were also a number of us who cared about history and culture as well.

The included shore excursions were led by knowledgeable guides who gave us a thorough overview, including history and economy. For one thing, all of these islands are dependent on trade and imported food. Many are really too rocky and mountainous to do much farming. Some, if they don’t have resident monkeys, raise and export bananas. Some have virtually no agriculture at all — tourism has taken over so competely.

There was a great variety of shore excursions to chose from, and a resident historian and a biologist who we got to know, and attended their lectures.

Here is Darius Etienne, artist from Dominica, whose studio we visited — a highlight of the whole trip.

Another art-related highlight was a visit to Caribella Batiks, at Romney Manor in St. Kitts. I used pieces of their batiks for the rest of the little quilts I made on the trip.

 

We walked in the Yunque National Rainforest in Puerto Rico:

And through Old Town in San Juan during a festival and visited sugar mill ruins.

 

Hurricane damage was evident on most islands. Some from Maria and some from Irma.  There were many roofs torn off and not replaced yet, and much re-building.

 

We walked on the deserted beach in Loquillo, Puerto Rico, visited the oldest Synagogue in the Americas, and a museum in Antiqua, including the history of sugar and slavery.

Here are a few more of my art quilts.  I made 15 in total! (that includes 3 which are not yet finished.)

 

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I’m finally getting around to blogging my 2019 art resolutions.  Hey, it’s still January, right?  That’s not so bad.

First, I’m going to make 2019 my the year of Instagram. I’ve learned just enough from listening to the blog Artists Helping Artists by Leslie Saeta to get me psyched.

screenshot instagram martha ressler

I plan to post every day: morning and/or evening. Search out more hashtags I want to follow, and through them, find other artists I like to follow.  So far #fabriccollage, #slowstitching, #artquilt, #foundobjectart and several similar are ones I’m paying attention to.

I try to stay on Instagram after I’ve posted to “like,” comment etc. for at least 15 minutes.  I understand that there is an algorithm that helps you if you do that. I don’t have a definite goal in mind for the number of followers I would like to have, but I do want to grow my presence there.

Do you have suggestions for me?  And — do please follow instagram.com/martharessler.

I want to continue making art quilts using found objects, but only when/ if it makes sense to do so.  I think I got off track a couple of years ago, incorporating them when it didn’t quite make artistic sense.

Birds Bees and Beyond.jpg

I’m pleased with the “Incorporating Found Objects in Art Quilts” class I gave, as well as my current, ongoing Beginning Art Quilters class here in my studio. So I want to plan at least 2 more of those during the year.

I’m intrigued by a stitching art called boro.  It’s a Japanese form of embroidery related to Sashiko. If I understand correctly, Sashiko uses orderly white thread stitches on indigo, and boro comes from mending process. I am more interested in adapting these, as part of the slow stitching movement, making small fabric compositions.  They may or may not turn out to be completed art quilts. But first I need to learn what they are and are not.

I want to try to create some sculptural forms using art quilts.  I have some ideas  .  .  . stay tuned on that score.

From the Farmhouse Junk Drawer.jpg

Travel this year will be focused on Cuba and the Caribbean, so I aim to create a body of work coming out of those experiences. I aim to dig below the surface in our Caribbean travel. Beyond the sunshine and sandy beaches is a history forged in blood from sugar and slavery.

I’ll continue my active work with local art organizations, including Art Plus Gallery, the cooperative gallery in West Reading of which I am part.

And – the garden will call to me come spring. There will be weeds to pull, natives to plant, and birds to watch.

I started using found objects in my art quilts when I was living in Pittsburgh. I lived, worked and had my studio in an old industrial area called Lawrenceville, which inspired much of my artwork. The streets were a source of interesting detritus, which I had the idea of sewing into the quilts.  Here is an example: Walking Sketches, 20 x 20″, 2013.

walking sketches 20 x 20 lo res.jpg

When I moved to the country (Berks County in eastern PA) in 2014, I hesitantly continued to use them in rural landscapes. In the Morning I Am So Tall, 2014, is an example. I was blending the found objects with the values and colors in the piece, but I found it an uneasy alliance. The detritus didn’t come from those locations, and I was never sure the idea was working.

Still, I was and am attracted to the concept of the pieces representing an “archeological thumbprint” — markings made by humans as we traversed the world.

In the Morning I am So Tall small

I stopped using them in the rural landscapes last year. This is Red Roof, Purple Sky, 16 x 20″, 2018.

purple sky red roof lo res.jpg

I still was able to draw upon the “archeological thumbprint idea” thru incorporation of old lace, and sometimes papers — things that did come from this geographical area.

One piece that worked well was “Wild Turkey Parade,” where the found objects became turkeys parading through our meadow. Here is a detail of Wild Turkey Parade 1, 2015.

Wild Turkey Parade 1 detail lo res

The found objects still call to me.  My collection has built back up, after I got rid of most things last year.

They found their place in the Eastern Europe in Stitches series I did last year, as we travelled through that area. Visits to flea markets were a great source. Here is Secrets of Prague, 5 x 7″ 2018.

Secrets of Prague lo res

I became enamored of used postage stamps in particular. I often looked up the story behind a person or historical reference. Thus the tiny quilts encased worlds within worlds — secret histories to explore.

Here is Nicolaus, Karl and George, three unlikely postage stamps companions. 5 x 7″, 2018.

 

Nicolaus Karl and George lo res

Just recently I’ve returned to an earlier idea of creating little birds and other creatures from the found objects in the quilts. Here is Krazy Kat, 5 x 7″ inspired by a Walmart hanger that I didn’t really mean to bring home!

Krazy Kat

For 2019 I want to continue using them, both in created creatures, and in little quilts that represent a place or idea.

My stock is building back up! Here’s what I brought home just yesterday. So, stay tuned!

Found objects 1 3 19

I read a blog post by S. Marsh. C. on making a cone shaped Christmas tree.  She used jute twine, wrapping around a cone of brown paper.

It gave me an idea of how to use some twisted cloth strip cord that I make compusively. I saw the method on Pinterest a few years ago — it involves two strips of cloth, and you twist them in one direction and wind them together in the opposite direction.  Basically. Anyway, I have a lot of it.

So — here goes.

After taking the paper bag apart, there was a tear.  I tried to ignore it, but it got in my way.

The cat was interested in this process.

The cat finds this interesting and the tear was in the way

So I stopped, ironed the paper, and fixed the tear with MistyFuse and some scraps of paper.fixing tear - Copy

Once ironed, it was good as new.

So — I wind the cone and tape it, and start to wrap the twisted twine around it, starting at the small end. I used a scrap of recycled styrofoam as my glue palette.

I think I wrapped a little too tightly, because the cone buckled a little. But not too bad. I trimmed off the end of the cone.

winding more

When it was all wrapped, it seemed to need a base, so I stuck it on the styro palette I had been using. Already full of glue! Perfecto.

plunked down on the glue palette for a base - Copy

Then after letting it dry overnight, I trimmed it off, and Voila — my new cone tree!

It didn’t seem to need ornaments, because of the color variations in the cloth twine.

Thank you S. Marsh C.  I hope you see this!

All done - Copy

 

 

After I made my sampler for my upcoming “12 Ways to Use Found Objects” in art quilts class, I decided I liked the little cat  (#9) so much I wanted to turn the idea into a little art quilt. (see my posted blog for Dec. 22.)

So, here is how I made him. The substrate is black felt (I lined the back with a fused piece of cotton fabric for extra strength. Next I cut the various elements, mostly using a tin snips (Stanley). It makes light work on plastics. The red tool is just a wire cutter. (yikes I really should clean these tools!)

Then I started to lay it out.

 

Hm, it looks like he needs something behind him.

Krazy Kat 1

I had started to add the hand embroidery at that point.

Here is Krazy Kat finished.  He is 5 x 7, and waiting for his frame.  I’ll show him in January.

Oh dear, the ears get a little lost with that background .  .  .  .

Krazy Kat

 

I am designing a class that I’m calling “12 Ways to Use Found Objects” in your art quilts. This is my Sampler of the 12 Ways. Which are listed below.

Can you see the numbers next to each image: 1, 2, 3 etc?

Sampler for 12 Ways class

  1. Glue on/ sew invisibly.  This is the easiest and most obvious.  I try to at least rotate the object, so it is not so obvious what it is, or was.  Can you tell what this is/was?
  2. Sew on decoratively.  This changes the “thing,” using decorative or contrasting stitching.
  3. Trap/ tulle/ cheese cloth. Trapping the object with net, cheese cloth or tulle.  sewing the cloth down can be done in a number of ways.
  4. Paint the object. This is very useful.  An ordinary object like a bottle cap can look quite different. In this case I also drilled a hole in the bottle cap.  Also useful!
  5. Change shape/ cut.  This is crucial.  I use many different tools, depending on what I am cutting. For example a utility knife for cork, a metal shears for plastics and metal and a Dremel for ceramics. Can you tell what this was before I cut it?
  6. Paper –  text. By fusing MistyFuse to both sides of paper it can be preserved and stitched. Text can be meant to be read. This example shows the text using two different ways of cutting it out.
  7. Paper – as texture, design only. Or papers can be used just as a design element.  Can you tell what this paper was originally? Either way, it has MistyFuse on both sides of the paper.
  8. Reverse applique. This is not quite the proper use of “reverse applique” but I wanted to express the idea that an item can be placed under the top layer of the quilt.  There are many ways to do this.
  9. Create animals/ figures. Of course this one takes some time.  The little creature has to be created, then attached.
  10. Heat/ distort/ plastic bags. This takes some experimenting with heat, and different types of bags.  I have quite a collection!
  11. Sew directly on the paper – Greeting cards. This method isn’t really for art quilts, but is useful for making greeting cards out of your collection of cards received.
  12. Combinations methods. Stacking. Paint/ trap. Cut/ paint. A reminder that by combining methods the possibilities are endless!

I’m sure there are more as well.  This is the first time I am offering this class. I hope to continue to experiment and learn from my students as well.

I’ll blog after the class this winter!

I’m not sure where I first saw the work of Kurt Schwitters.  The Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice?  The Cleveland Museum of Art? But I was drawn to it immediately.

The back story of these collages are compelling. He was an early 20th century German artist from Hanover, who like many of his generation, was turned upside down by the devastation of The Great War.

He explained,”In the war, things were in terrible turmoil. What I had learned at the academy was of no use to me and the useful new ideas were still unready…. Everything had broken down and new things had to be made out of the fragments; and this is Merz. It was like a revolution within me, not as it was, but as it should have been.”

He picked up scraps from the streets and made art with it.