Okay, this post isn’t quite about art.  But — I admit it — I get almost as much pleasure out of craft. And, truth be told, as much pleasure watching people having fun making things.

That’s how it was in the Upcycling Denim class I taught recently at our local Salvation Army store.

With the carefully arranged shoe and clothing racks as our backdrop, participants cut up and put together old denim jeans that weren’t up to the store standards for re-sale.

I introduced the class with an appreciation for denim. Each person held a pair of jean in their hands as I briefly explained the origins of jeans as work clothes in the late 19th Century in the US. Denim itself — the warp indigo dyed and the weft white — in its distinctive twill weave, goes back to France.

I worked briefly in a Lees jean plant during my 13 years as a sewing machine operator, and remember that it took 13 separate types of sewing machines to make a pair of jeans. I pointed out the flat fell seams on the jean that have them, that make a decent handle for a tote.  And the rivets which you do not want to include in your seams!  A broken needle will be the consequence.

By the second day of the two-day class, the 5 members had learned each others names, and seemed really happy with their projects. An eleven year old fit in as an equal.  A 70 something gentleman decided to make a second belt pouch to balance out the first pouch which he had completed.  And wine totes abounded.  They were based on my own design, but each bore the distinctive personality of its maker.

This class is scheduled for another session. I hope the magic happens again.

 

 

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At some point as my husband and I planned our year, we decided it would be a good idea to participate in 10 art fairs in a row, August, Sept and into October.

I’m not sure what we were thinking!

Maybe I thought some little elves would create more of my inventory in the few days between unpacking the car and packing it again to head off to another art fair.

I’m new really working flat out hard to try to keep up.

But, that being said, there is a lot of good that has come from this intensive experience.

We’ve both made an effort to ask advice from other artists we trust on how to show our art to its best advantage.

My sales have been much better this year than last.  I attribute that primarily to having started to frame my art quilts. It not only shows off each piece to its best advantage, but lends a more unified look to the booth. Plus I’m making a number of small art quilts: 5 x 7, framed to 7 x 9.  They sell well in an art fair setting.

Customers are now clear about how to hang the art quilts. I was always trying to explain about the “hanging sleeve,” the “slat,” etc. and it was going over heads.

My husband, Jay Ressler, is making my frames.  They are hand crafted from either re-purposed barn wood or hardwoods, stained and oil rubbed. I then cover a piece of foam core with black linen fabric, and sew the finished quilt to that.  Then I complete the frame with a backing and wire.  No glass of course!

I’m also beginning to weigh whether I want to continue making my craft items: Friendship Wine Totes and “Hot Spots,” that is, hot pads. Both carry through a constant in my work: using re-purposed fabrics and objects. For now, I plan to keep making them.

Compare the show on the left, this year’s booth shot, with last years’ booth shot of the same event.  They are similar, but the framing, on the left, unifies the work.

 

 

 

Here is a little video of me working on a piece that I eventually call “Reading Blues.”  It was a photo I took of some interesting graffiti on a wall in Reading, PA. After printing the photo on fabric I embellished it with stitching, found objects and some fabric pieces.

And the finished piece.

Reading Blues version 2

I am pleased to announce that I am now part of a small new group of art quilters. I was invited by the organizer, Karol Kasmaul of Florida.  We are from the United States, Canada, England, Australia, Norway, Japan and Korea — 11 fiber artists in all. We have committed to challenge ourselves over an extended period of time, using the overall theme of “Unusual Inspirations.” Following the inspiration of a new prompt every two months, we will create a small, medium or large art quilt, and post the results.

Here is our website — you can subscribe to follow our progress. https://www.clothincommon.com/

The first prompt, provided by Karol, is “What did you say?”

She concludes: “Your work could show loud, amplified sound like construction or thunder.  Or soft and faint sound, like a whisper.  How will you represent sound visually?”

The first thing that came to mind is that although I live peacefully in the countryside, my ears are assaulted day and night by the sound of my mother-in-law’s TV. She is a sweet soul who lives with us, and the TV keeps her company, though she pays scant attention to it. Instead her world consists of crossword puzzles and books. From the morning talk shows and Rachael Ray to The View and The Chew, through the afternoon to the evening news: Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Chris Matthews, and everything in between, along with the prescription medication advertisements, automobile, Progressive Insurance, and “My Pillow” ads — my peace is punctured by TV sound waves. I see them as bright, sharp colors crowding the serenity of my space.

Here are some details from Elizabeth’s World.  it is not quilted yet — still a work in progress. Your comments and suggestions are welcome!

 

 

The smiling figures in this lighthearted moment on our trip to South Africa belie the tragedy embedded in this place. They are seated in front of the High Court Annex in Cape Town, where South Africans had to report annually to be classified as members of one of seven “races.” Our guide, seated on the right, relayed how his own family had been split up by this cruel, subjective process. He is joined on the left by one of our tour group members, a young doctor from Atlanta.

In the past, as persons of color, they would have been violating the South African laws of Apartheid, a system of rigid segregation and oppression of the non-white population. African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, and the Apartheid laws were abolished in mid-1991, pending the historical first multiracial election in 1994, when Mandela was elected President of South Africa. Today the “whites only” bench remains as a historical reminder that Apartheid has been tossed into the ashcan of history.

I was involved in the international fight to free Nelson Mandela and end apartheid in the late 1980’s, and sewed my collection of political buttons from that time into the quilt.

Today, though Apartheid has been destroyed, South Africa is one of the most economically unequal country in the world. The fight for equality continues as it does elsewhere, including the United States.

The rest of the piece tells the story of our visit to South Africa. The Bushveld, at the top, is where we enjoyed a safari. Nelson Mandela’s prison cell and the quarry where he and other political prisoners toiled, fabrics I bought there, South African money and Jackass Penguins and other animals we saw are among the other items in the design.

This piece was created for an invitational show of art quilts called “Things That Matter,” which will preview next year.  It is 60″ wide by 37.5″ tall.

The photo of the figures was provided by Jay Ressler.

 

The Studio Art Quilt Associates annual silent auction is an opportunity for collectors to find new artists, and add to their collection of established art quilters.  All the work is in, and we are counting down until the Sept 15 bidding begins.

http://www.saqa.com/auction-quiltviewALL.php

To find my quilt, for example, enter “Ressler” in the search bar. This year, 370 SAQA members donated 12 x 12″ art quilts to the auction. Last year the auction raised nearly 80K to aid SAQA’s exhibition and outreach programs.

The dates are September 15 through October 8, 2017.

Here is my piece: Perilous.

Perilous smaller

 

I have many painter friends, and I am active in the local art world as well as the community of Art Quilters.  So when Plein Air West Reading loosened its rules this year, I decided to take up the challenge.

This is the second year of the event. For 2017 only 80% of your piece has to be completed outdoors.  The rest can be in the studio.

Here’s what I did: limited my palate to blacks, whites and grays, and pre-fused some workable size pieces to take with me. I packed a scissors, tracing paper, parchment paper, drawing paper, muslin and pencil and set up a small table near an outlet so I could plug in my iron.

I started as any Plein Air artist would: made a sketch.  For me, the sketch had to be the same size as the finished piece would be.  And I worked as I always do: traced the shapes in the drawing from the sketch (the buildings, the sky etc) and cut them out in fabric.

Honestly the experience did me more good than I thought it would.  As in all plein air work, the values are higher keyed (brighter — more white) than when translated through a photograph.  Since values are my most difficult artistic component, it was a useful adjustment to work outside. Also, of course, you can walk around and better see what you are trying to depict than when working from a photo.

The most difficult part was trying to keep the pieces from moving in the slightest breeze.  A pin or two helped here. And I don’t know how I could do this without an extension cord and iron fairly handy. I used it by heating it up, unplugging and bringing over to my work — still hot enough to activate the fusing and hold the fabric pieces down. But I couldn’t be too very far from it.

Of course I finished the pieces in my studio: using my sewing machine for the quilting and binding. I also took photos, printed them on cloth, and places them in key spots.  Those I printed in color, so the works were desaturated with bits of color.

These will be shown June 17 at Art of the Avenue in West Reading.  Just look for the Art Quilts in the Plein Air display.  I doubt there will be any others.  But maybe next year!