I was pleased and honored to see my piece included in a “Selections from Turmoil” article in the current issue of SAQA Journal (Volume 26, No. 3). Juror Kate Lydon says, “Turmoil features art quilts that depict personal interpretations of confusion and uncertainty, bitterness, anger, or the chaos of an over-scheduled life.  Representing themes of aging, displacement, and the power of nature, selected artists share expressive works that speak to memories robbed by disease, dysfunction, and grief, witness displaced people, borders crossed, obstacles faced, and disempowerment through war and unrest.”

My piece, Mother Serves the Turkey, is more lighthearted. There is a war going on, but the artist is blithely unaware of it. Normally when Mother “serves turkey” it is to hungry guests who look forward to a delicious meal.  In this case, she serves Mrs Hen Turkey her favorite food: watermelon (true fact.)

Turmoil, along with a sister show Tranquility, open at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas, this October, and travels until 2019.

turmoil-saqa-journal-1turmoil-saqa-journal-2

Mother Serves the Turkey II 31 x 26.5

M Ressler Mother Serves the Turkey

 

In response to a financially disastrous art fair experience last weekend, I’m trying something new: miniature art quilts. I think my problem was that I had too many “regular sized” and “regular priced” pieces, and not enough small ones, befitting art fair shoppers’ budgets.

I got the idea because our Pennsylvania SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) chapter is making postcard sized quilts (4 x 6″) to sell at our upcoming October state wide show. I made one for that, and tried making some more.

My husband, Jay Ressler, has been making frames for his art work, using an air compressor and nail gun that fires wire nails (headless).

He made me several 5 x 7″ frames for my 4 x 6″ quilts. He finishes them beautifully with stain, lacquer and wax.

Here is what I have so far.  We’ll see if the experiment work!

 

I’m supposed to be packing up my art quilts for the Mt. Gretna Art fair this weekend.

But I can’t stop myself. I’ve been making needle felted brooches for a few days to take and sell, and I keep saying to myself: “Just one more!”

I bought a Needle Punch Accessory Kit for my Bernina sewing machine, and I love it!  I’ve done needle felting for years, with a little five-needle hand punch.  But using the speed of the sewing machine is a game changer.

I have a good supply of vintage silk sari strips, which shimmer in these little compositions.  A friend gave me some wonderfully smooth wool suit samples.  The blacks and grays make great backgrounds for the vibrant colors.  Plus I have plenty of wool yarn, and many colors of felt pieces. I drawn upon my bead supply for the final touches.

I even forgot that my 11 year old art student was coming today. So — I explained the process to her, and soon she was needle felting a nice little landscape. She looked so grown up sitting at that machine! She took to it like a duck to water.

I’ve been working on a series that is all surface design. My concentration has been on making my found objects and papers completely integral to the piece.  The art quilts in this series are not representational, yet not completely abstract.  There is an “all-over” composition.

They start with the substrate — vintage feed and seed bags, or for some,  old linen table wear. The feel of these things is important to me. I love linen table cloths because of the subtle design woven into the fabric itself. And my collection of feed and seed bags, a gift from my cousin — they were her mother’s collection — is dear to me.

I also rusted these fabrics for an increased look of aging.

The sepia toned photos I found hanging carelessly in a McDonald’s restaurant somewhere on the Outer Banks. They were not credited. I took some photos of them, and had them printed on silk (Spoonflower.com). The seagull photos were taken by Jay Ressler, and are used with permission. (also printed on fabric.)

I took my husband to Ocracoke, NC for our vacation this year.  It had more meaning for me than an ordinary beach trip. I’d enjoyed summers there as a kid, but hadn’t been back in 51 years.  My memories glowed with the warmth of a setting sun on a pristine beach.

Luckily the charm of Ocracoke (the last in the string of islands off the coast of North Carolina) remains intact.  The village has sprouted new restaurants — delicious food, and no chains! — and there are fewer working fishermen, but it’s still a National Seashore, with Rangers to teach about nature.  And the beaches have the finest sand, and are clean and not commercialized. People meander around on bicycles or golf carts. You can still stay in a quaint cottage, and buy fresh fish daily in the Village.

This piece, called “Banked Memories” is about the mingling of memories and today’s reality.

 

I’ve been immersed in reading David McCullough’s biography, “The Wright Brothers.” In particular he has drawn a loving portrait of Wilbur. Will was the elder brother, taller, and  a genius. He was careful in everything he did, thorough, calm and sober to a fault.

After much experimentation in America, both at Kitty Hawk, NC, and at their home in Dayton, OH, the brothers tried to sell their third flying machine. The US government spurned their advances twice, but France expressed interest.

On Will’s second trip there, a skeptical French reporter, Francois Peyrey met him. “I felt my doubts fly away one by one . . .Through curls of smoke I examined Wilbur Wright, his thin, serious face, lit by the strangely gentle, intelligent and radiant eyes . . . I had to admit: no, this man is not a bluffer.”France had many pilots who were also experimenting with flight. Wilbur’s eventual demonstration of their flying machine at LeMans in 1908 was a triumph. In his second flight he made two giant figure eights in front of the crowd, landing gracefully exactly at his point of departure. One famous French pioneer gasped, “Well, we are beaten!  We just don’t exist!”

A writer for Le Figaro concluded, “He and his brother made the conquest of the sky their existence.  They needed this ambition and profound, almost religious, faith in order to deliberately accept their exile to the country of the dunes, far away from all . . . Wilbur is phlegmatic but only in appearance. He is driven by a will of iron which animates him and drives him in his work.”

Wilbur was a man of science and action, but possessed by a broad intellectual and artistic curiosity. While in Paris he visited the Louvre 15 or more times, and filled pages with descriptions of the paintings he saw in his letters home. He preferred the Rembrandts, Holbeins and Van Dycks “as a whole” better than the Rubenses, Titians, Raphaels and Murillos. I looked up which painting of those masters are at the Louvre to grasp what it was he liked about them.

There are many late Rembrandt self portraits, brooding, isolated, and monochromatic. The “Philosopher in Meditation,” 1632, is also there, and must have appealed to Will. The Holbeins include “Erasmus,” the portrait of the greatest scholar of the Renaissance, and a Humanist.  It was he who wrote, “When I get a little money I buy books, and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” It sounds like Ben Franklin (or Wilbur Wright for that matter), but those were the words of Erasmus, born in 1469.  His masterful portrait of Nikolaus Kratzer is also there.

Anthony Van Dyke was a student of Rubens, and what attracted Wilbur is not immediately clear to me. He was a Flemish Baroque painter mostly of court portraits. Yet it was Anthony Van Dyke he liked best of all. I’d have to read Wilburs letters to learn why exactly.

Among the 19th Century French masters he loved Corot, especially his treatment of the sky.  That is easy to understand.

By the way, he always came to his own conclusions about art.  For example, he was critical of Notre Dame, finding the nave too narrow, the pillars too heavy and close together and the interior far too dark. But he praised the cathedral at Le Mans, although the only part of the church service he said he could understand was the collection!

 

I’ve been getting back to a method I used often in the past to add color and texture to fabrics for art quilts.

Gelatin printing is a method of creating a monoprint:  a print that can only be repeated once (unlike intaglio, wood cut, lino cut, silkscreen, or other methods of print making in which multiple copies can be made.).

The plate can either be home made or purchased http://www.gelliarts.com/.

I recently learned a different method of making the homemade plate from Linda Germain http://www.lindagermain.com/ using glycerin, in addition to the concentrated Knox plain gelatin.  This makes the plate more durable.  But, as I quickly found out, it sets up much more quickly, so that my first attempt has bubbles and flaws in it because it hardened while I was still smoothing it out!

Nevermind, I’m using it anyway, until I get ready to make a new one, in which I hope to improve.

For the art quilt I am starting now, I wanted to add a bit more color to my substrate, vintage feed bags, which I had also rusted (see a previous blog).

The gelatin printing added just enough texture and color.

 

 

Having just returned from vacation rested and refreshed, I’m starting to turn my attention back to my artwork and upcoming events. I’m the featured artist for July at Hamburg Art and Craft Gallery (Hamburg, PA), and the opening reception will be at our house/ studio. I get a chance to display art both in the gallery and at my studio, as well as show some of the techniques I use. Plus we’ll fire up the grill for hot dogs, with plenty of corn on the cob, beverages, and desserts.

Then I’m looking forward to classes: I have a full teaching schedule at GoggleWorks for the fall, though right now the only one on line is in August:

http://public.goggleworks.org/public/ClassesByMedium.faces

And I’m starting classes at Art Plus Gallery, beginning with Gelli Printing.  This is a fun, useful way to alter fabrics or papers for collage or art quilts. I’ve been doing it for years making my own gelatin plate, and now Gelli has come up with a synthetic substitute that gives you a clear, detailed print.

I just ordered a yard of silk fabric through Spoonflower, with images from the wonderful island of Ocracoke, where we went on vacation. I have an “Ocra-quilt” in mind — we’ll see if I can come close to the subtle quilt I am imagining, combining my memories of over 50 years ago with the reality of today. Good luck to me! The Outer Banks are such a unique environment, where the land meets the sea to create its own unique ecology.  I loved immersing myself in learning about the birds and plant life and just playing in the waves.