I just finished a busy week teaching youngsters at a summer camp. Yes, a distraction from my artwork, but I like watching them grow up.  And it helps to ground me to the families in my community and feel a part of it.

The week before that, I participated in a Plein Air contest. Luckily it wasn’t a juried entry, as I am primarily a studio artist. I do like participating  — this was the 3rd year. Working outside heightens your senses, and makes you feel very THERE. I’m happy with one of my pieces, and only medium-satisfied with the other two.  I’ll include pictures of all three. Of course it is a logistical challenge working with fabric outdoors. For one of them I took along our marine battery and inverter and my iron. That way I could fuse down the pieces as I composed.  It actually worked fairly well. The first one, Museum Path, was done on a breezy day, and I was constantly chasing bits of fabric.  I was trying to pin them down, which really didn’t work very well. I had to add all the details: light poles, the bench etc. later in my studio.

Also I upgraded to a paying WordPress account. You aren’t supposed to see any ads.

Is it worth it? And — feed back please — do you see ads??

 

We have collected many original art pieces over the years.  They all have stories, and all are special.  But our latest acquisition is especially sweet.

My husband and I were instrumental in bringing Cuban artist Julio Cepeda to Reading for a two month residency last year. During the 3 plus years it to plan his exhibition, he was shipping work to us as he finished it.

At one point he asked us to see if we could find some small bottles that he could use in a work to be called The Pharmacist.

We looked at flea markets, and found a few — at about $10 a pop! Some made it into this piece — but I can’t remember which ones they were.

We hadn’t been in a position to purchase one of his major pieces last year, but after his show at the Goggleworks Center for the Arts in Reading ended in October, 2018, they agreed to continue to display the work that hadn’t sold. And one of those was The Pharmacist. I wanted something with a little bit of blue in it to fit in our living room. So we made the decision to purchase. I’m so happy we did! It gives me joy every day.

 

I recently returned from a trip to Cuba.  We went on our own this time, visiting an artist friend in Trinidad, a city in the south of the island.

You can see a video of my trip here. 

But what I wanted to do today is share some pictures of the process of compositing my collages.  I spent a morning on the patio of the Casa where we stayed, spreading out all of my fabrics, found objecs, papers, etc etc, and creating several compositions that I could later stitch.

I thought it would be fun for a reader to play “I spy” to discern what was the change each time, and why it was important.

Here we go!

Click on the image to see the captions.  The final piece is at the end. See how much the stitching adds to the image!

Vintage Cuba

Martha Ressler, Vintage Cuba,

Here is another smaller one. Click on the image to see the caption.

I started a new series of small quilts.  They are based on the 72 municipalities of Berks County. The local paper is doing a series – one of them a week, alphabetically.

So far I’ve done four: Albany, Alsace, Amity and Bally. I drove to each place, and picked something to draw. Then drew it on fabric, embroidered it, and composed the rest of the little quilt.

Here they are. Stony Run In in Albany. My mother in law grew up here, and we’ve eaten at Stony Run Inn several times.

Albany lo res

Next is Alsace.  I chose Spies Church, overlooking rolling countryside.

Alsace lo res

And the one with the nicest name: Amity. For that I liked the look of St. Gabriel’s Church in Douglassville. Amity Township is the oldest in Berks County.

and finally, so far, Bally. I didn’t expect it to me much, but it’s a cute little town. I chose this diner, that looks more like a castle.

Bally lo res

Only 68 more to go!  It would certainly help if the newspaper managed to get this series on-line. For the next one, Bechtelsville, I have to virtually drive all the way back to Bally — an hour away. Grump, grump.  I could have hit them both in one shot!

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.)

 

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