Archive for the ‘Photos’ Category

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.

 

My art quilt friend Jenny Lyons, in her blog yesterday, mentioned a technique of using a large print in the center of a piece, and building the composition around it.

Jenny Lyons

She said she’d gotten the inspiration from Linda Waddle years ago:

Jenny on Linda Waddle

I was pleased to know this is actually “a thing,” because I just finished a piece using this technique.  In my head I was calling it using a “Photo starter.”  Jenny called it “Print Starter.”  Same difference! My photo print on cloth was 8.5 x 11,” and of course I wanted my quilt to be larger than that.

About a year ago I had taken a photo of one of my neighbor’s bone pile of rusty cars that he uses to cannibalize for parts. I’d printed the image on cloth, meaning to get back to it.  Which, finally I did.

First I backed it with just one piece of cloth, put it in my embroidery hoop, and started stitching on it.  I used simple stitches: French knots, big wonky cross stitches, and running stitches.

Then I designed “the surround” and cut and put that together using raw edge applique. I used fabrics that complemented the central photo. I included photos printed on silk that I’d taken at the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum while on a recent visit. You can see them peeking through here and there.

Now I had the entire composition, so I made my quilt sandwich and kept hand stitching.  Now each stitch served the function of both embroidering and quilting. The finished size is 23 x 17.5.”

rusty-musty-fusty-small

I won’t lie.  This took at least 2 weeks.

The part I like best is where I painstakingly combined individual strands of embroidery floss to get just the right mixture of colors. Here is a detail of that area.

rusty-musty-fusty-detail-2

I’m calling the piece Rusty Musty Fusty, and submitting it to a show called Muse at Studio B in Boyertown, PA. Curator Jane Stahl encourages literary submissions as well, so I made up this poem.  Though I’m not so sure it gets many “literary” kudos!

Rusty Musty Fusty

By Martha Ressler

 

Yo!  I like ‘em rusty and musty

Old city factories all scruffy

And in the country so crusty

They were cars or trains, all them parts so fusty

Lying around — almost art — a little fuzzy

The sun makes you just

Lovely though scruffy

That’s OK I’m not fussy

I’ll take you thusly

Beauty all rusty.

I just learned from my friend and fellow art quilter Sara Mika that there is a project called 1 Year of Stitches.  It is a thing! Gather your hoop, your needles, some cloth and all of that beautiful embroidery thread and join in.

1 Year of Stitches is the brainchild of Hannah Claire Somerville, who has invited anyone interested to join in this impressive endeavor.

Here is what I’ve been working on for a week or so.  Mine is an art quilt in becoming.  This is the part with most of the embroidery.  A photo of a rusty old car. (see it?  turn it clockwise: that’s a front headlight.)

This piece was inspired by a rusty old car at the end of our road, and a trip to a railroad museum yard.

rusty-musty-fusty

You can stitch on plain cloth, print cloth, linen — whatever makes you happy. Make abstract designs with stitches, or make a little picture — just be yourself.

Look at this densely embroidered beauty by Michelle Anais Beaulieu-Morgan.

Brown paper bag

Join the fun! Get your hoops on.

We enjoy watching our Goldfinches all summer long. They grab onto a long flower stem in our wildflower meadow and swing back and forth, like in their own private amusement park. As autumn approaches, they lose their bright yellow coloring. It takes energy to maintain that color for breeding season.

It’s like when you come home and put on your comfortable clothes!

A while ago my husband, Jay Ressler, who is also an artist, made a beautiful photographic composition called The Sunflower King. The finch sits grandly atop a bent and gnarly sunflower, well past its prime. In the background are layered love letters from Henry VII to Anne Boleyn, and another texture layer.

I decided to make an art quilt inspired by The Sunflower King. Actually I made two.

The largest one is called Summer’s End, 25.25 x 19.5”

The smaller is called My Little Finch, and is 12.5 x 10”

Here they all are.

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.

 

My quilters guild, Quiltessence Quilters, presented me with quite a challenge last week.

Mary, conducting the program, instructed us to each bring one yard of ugly fabric from our stash to the meeting.

We then sat around the tables in a big circle, with our ugly fabric and a pair of scissors. She said: cut the first piece, kept half, and pass half, to the music. We repeated until we had varying sizes of ugly fabrics, down to a scrap about 2 x 3”.  I won’t try to describe Mary dancing to the music, or our general amusement at how many ways we could mess up these simple directions!

At the end I stared down at my pile of ugly fabric scraps.  I took them home.

They haunted me. What on earth could I do with them? There was no purple or much orange! I can hardly make a piece without them. It was OK to add other fabrics for the challenge, but we had to use something of ALL of the scrappy pieces.

I had in mind a scene looking north from our home, which I’d done several versions of.

The light green and darker green weren’t a problem.  The light tan one worked quite well actually, as well as the darker tan. I used the trees and a few yellow parts from the corny rural scene. For the “Chinese” print I used the reverse side in the sky. The geometric earth toned piece worked OK in parts of the foreground. The yellow piece with the DNA or chains (I’m not sure what they are) worked OK for the tops of the corn stalks.

The biggest problems were the “Patriots” red piece, and a blue flowered one. I ended up using the Patriots red for flowers that should have been a more muted purplish red, and the blue flowers in the background purple mountains.

Here is the final product I came up with, along with my reference photo, and a picture of the ugly scraps. I added found objects, including pieces from an 1890 atlas I am coming to depend upon, and bits of lottery tickets, which seem to be becoming my signature.

Lottery tickets carry so much emotion. People get all excited about winning.  Then they get equally disappointed, and just toss the tickets away, wasting all that color! I like to retrieve them and make use of the color and textures.

Once the quilt was done, it felt very good to toss the remainder of those ugly scraps away!

Like a used lottery ticket to someone else I guess.

September 14 x 15.5

Martha Ressler, September, Studio Art Quilt, 14 x 15.5 inches. Fabrics, papers and found objects.

Looking North from our house.

Reference photo for “September.” I did a sketch too, but it was a simple line drawing, and did not reproduce well. I have to do both — some kind of a sketch to remind myself what I saw, and a photo to remind me of the colors.

ugly fabric challenge

The pile of ugly scraps I was left with after the musical chairs scrappy game. Notice some are very small: the dark tan and yellow piece with the chains (?) on it. Those I got near the end. I could have actually used more of each. Down with that Patriots fabric!

Blue Abstract

This started with a photo I took using my phone while walking. What caught my eye was the composition – all of those blue angles and shapes in the old Heppenstall factory building in Lawrenceville (Pittsburgh).
I got it printed on cloth with the intention of cutting it up and collaging it.
But the composition resisted being cut up. So I left it whole, and decided to “thread paint” it. To answer the usual questions: yes, it takes a long time. I can finish an area approximately 3 by 3 inches in 2 and a half hours (an evening’s work for me). Yes, it takes a lot of thread. Thousands of yards of it. Sometimes I have a “thread emergency” when I need a certain color, and have to take the 30 minutes drive to Joann Fabrics. But I do enjoy it. It really feels like painting. A lot of the same principles apply. I analyze an area first, then stitch in the accent colors, letting the threads connect between the areas. After that I stitch the main color or colors in an area. That covers up the connecting threads from the accent areas.
And of course, finally, I add my found objects, little treasures that caught my eye while I walk 10,000 steps a day.
The size is 14 x 20 inches.