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.

 

 

I have to admit I do enjoy organizing events, even though it puts a stress on my brain. Right now, though, I am juggling three major events at once, and my fear of forgetting something is causing me to lose sleep!

Tonight is the first public event organized by the Julio Cepeda Exhibition 2018 Committee. This is a group my husband and I started after seeing the art of Julio Cepeda in Cuba when we visited there last year.  I could instantly visualize an exhibition of his art at GoggleWorks Art Center in Reading, PA, and also visualize how making that happen could build bridges between Cuba and Reading, and within Reading itself.

We left our contact info with the gallery, and Julio contacted us. After I explained our idea, he was very enthusiastic about doing an exhibition. We talked with the art director of GoggleWorks, and started recruiting our friends, and friends of friends to the effort. Within a few months Julio had a contract for a show (Sept 8 to Oct 12 2018), we had a bank account, a Facebook Page and a website.  Our committee now consists of about 10 or so active people who meet every month, and tonight will be a fundraising mixer. I’m excited and, yes, nervous!

Then the next night is an opening at Art Plus Gallery. Nothing new there — happens every second Friday of every month.  But this time I’m the Featured Member artist. My art quilts are paired with a fabulous ceramic artist named Angela Shope. Even when I look at our work together, I concentrate on hers! I’m pretty sure everyone else will too, though, to be honest, they do go well together. So — I have butterflies about that event as well.

Then on Sunday we are hosting a fundraising event for the Reading Symphony Orchestra, “Art in the Garden.” We’ve been weeding like crazy, but we can’t keep up. We’ll just have our garden and studio looking the best we can, and try to relax.

Thank goodness, the next week we are going on vacation.

But of course that means more things to remember! My method is, and has always been, to make lists and check things off.

Feels so good to make that check mark!

I was thrilled to be included in the SAQA show that just opened at the Stratford Perth Museum in Stratford, Ontario, My Corner of the World.

Here is the review of the show in the Stratford Beacon Herald

http://www.stratfordbeaconherald.com/2016/05/22/my-corner-of-the-world-attracts-artists-from-across-canada-and-around-the-globe-to-exhibit-at-stratford-perth-museum

The piece that was accepted was the view from my studio in Pittsburgh, PA. I walked those streets, and gazed from my studio window so much, I truly felt that those alleys and old factories were my corner of the world. It is called “Evening in Steel Valley.”

My world has changed since then to one of fields rather than factories.  But the truth is that you can take the girl out of the city, but you can never completely take the city out of the girl.

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