Posts Tagged ‘art quilts’

I sat myself down yesterday and watched Thread Therapy with Dr. Bob.  Subtitled “Eliminate your Frustrations with Thread, Needles, Tension,” it went a long way to do just that during its less than two hour running time.

I have long appreciated Superior Threads and their accurate but humorous advice. I’ve poked around their website, read their blogs, and received their emails. But I learned so much more from this little video.

Here is one teaser from just the first few minutes.

I, like many other quilters, have been seduced by the sparkly metallic threads on a narrow cone at the fabric store.  But then when sewing with them, they break.

Bob demonstrated a simple test for metallic thread.

Pull a foot or two off the spool.  If the thread is curly and twisted as it hangs, it will twist along the thread path and break when it goes through the tension disks.

If it hangs straight, it will sew without twisting.

Some of the problem lies in the manufacturing — the way the metallic foil is wrapped around the center thread. Some of the problem lies with the diameter of the core. Some are just a half inch or so, the thread takes on “memory” of that tight wind.

Superior’s metallic threads are wound on a larger diameter spool, and don’t twist.

I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the years about thread, tension and needles.  But so many of the gaps in my knowledge were filled in by sitting down and watching this video.

The DVD is still available and free of charge.  Here is the link:

There is much to be gained from this wonderful company. In the future I’ll let you know what you CAN do with those pesky metallic threads in your stash.

When I joined SAQA, Studio Art Quilt Associated in 2009, I began to hear about a special level of membership, now called Juried Artist Members.

At first I thought: I’ll never be able to achieve that!

Then over time the idea began to intrigue me.

What is a Juried Artist Member?

SAQA created the designation:

“ . . . as a tool to help the collector choose new artists to purchase or to assess the importance of your collections.  SAQA offers members the opportunity to have their work juried in order to achieve Juried Artist Member status.  This status means that in the view of the jurors, the artist is producing and documenting his or her work at a high professional standard.  What could be more useful to the collector, than the assurance that an artist has created and will continue to create top-quality work and is recognized, by his or her peers, as a professional?  SAQA offers collectors an enormous advantage because we have access to the online directory of Juried Artist Members.”

In fact the jurying process was indeed very rigorous. The first time I applied, I was not accepted.

But I applied a second time, and was just notified that I was accepted!

Notice the stipulation that the work is being documented at a high professional standard.

Writing artist statements, and keep accurate records is part of being a professional artist. I have heard that it is now being taught as such in art schools.  True?

Anyway, here is my new JAM profile.


There was a quilt at IQF, International Quilt Festival in Houston that has stayed on my mind.

It was not a prize winner, so I don’t have a professional picture of it, just my own.  I hope you can see it enough to appreciate it.

Not only is the piecing well thought out, but the quilting is genius. I admire it so much because I could simply never do something like that.  It is peaceful, yet engages the mind at the same time.

Green Trees, Clouds and Walt Whitman, by Victoria Findlay Wolfe, quilted by Karen McTavish.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

I am so thankful I was able to retire from my day job last year and enter on a new life as full time artist. This is my 6th year of making art quilts.  I have so much to learn, yet I’ve gained such precious knowledge. I wish I could spend every minute of every day making and reading and looking and absorbing art and art quilts.

But much else in life calls to me. Food, cooking, family, the garden, and walks outside.

We watched The Theory of Everything last night.

Perhaps a theory of everything will one day bring the many joyful parts of my life together.

Green Trees, Clouds and Walk Whitman, Victoria Findlay Wolfe, quilted by Karen McTavish

I am one of only a few Art Quilters in the traditional quilting group, Quiltessence Quilters, so I was so pleased that our guest speaker this month was an Art Quilter. Her name is Joyce Hughes, and she is an original voice. She is in her 7th year of art quilting, only a little longer than myself. As a child she hated to sew – felt the sewing machine was her enemy. Her sisters and mother were accomplished quilters, and the comparison didn’t encourage her! As an adult she decided with some friends to make tee shirt quilts as gifts. None of the group even owned a sewing machine. Joyce researched what to do on line, and just got started, borrowing her mothers Bernina.  Her first quilt was for her daughter’s boyfriend, who enthusiastically encouraged her. Only when his quilt turned out well did her daughter relinquish some tee shirts for her own quilt. She went on to develop her own methods: fussy cutting and fusing elements of fabrics, such as flowers, and organizing her compositions. Her first piece, One Sweet Day, ended up with a viewers choice award in a quilt show in Lancaster. She showed us many of her pieces over the years, always full of color and exuberance.  When she began teaching she started up utilize fabric panels to encourage her students to enhance them with stitching. Naturally the resulting piece cannot be called completely original, but she has achieved some stunning results by rearranging the elements and stitching. You can decide for yourself – see Panel Play on her website.

Cheers, Joyce! I was so glad to have met you.

Last week I wrote about my visit to the International Quilt Festival in Houston. This week I will continue with some more of my personal favorites.

Here we go!

Duet #4

Duet #4 by Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gantry, Port Townsend, WA, 30 x 30. Honorable Mention in Art — Abstract, Small. “About birds that mate for life. The piece is abstract and not meant to depict a specific species.”

A Toast to Toulouse Lautrec

A Toast to Toulouse-Lautrec, by Katherine Donges & Susan Slaton, Suches, GA. 50 x 45. Judges Choice of Patt Blair.


Ghosts, Ruth Montalvo, Madison Heights, MI. 48 x 64″ Third piece in Innovative Pieced.


Tutti Frutti Alleyway, Sue Bleiweiss, Pepperell, MA. 33 x 45″ Third Prize in Art — Whimsical

Golden Girl

Golden Girl, Hollis Chatelain, Hillsborough, NC. 24 x 60″. First Prize in Art — Painted Surfaces.

Kan Oh Chi Rai (Prediction by Studying the Past) by Yoshiyuki Ishizaki of Ashiya, Hyogo. Japan. 79.5 x 61.5 Second Prize in Innovative Pieced.

Kan Oh Chi Rai (Prediction by Studying the Past) by Yoshiyuki Ishizaki of Ashiya, Hyogo. Japan. 79.5 x 61.5 Second Prize in Innovative Pieced. “The present become the past quickly and will be reborn to the new present soon.”


Leafless, Janet Steadman, Langley, WA, 54 x 45″ Second Prize, Abstract small. “Bare Tree branches in fall and winter inspired this quilt.”

Mysterious Letter

Mysterious Letter, Noriko Nozawa of Chiba City, Chiba, Japan. 80 x 82″. First Prize in Art, Abstract, large. “Kana letter, which is a Japanese traditional letter, is the main theme of this piece.”

Out on a limb

Out on a Limb, Thelma Bearden, Tullahoma, TN. 56 x 83.5. Second Prize in Art — Abstract, Large


Reborn, Molly Hamilton-McNally, Tehachapi, CA, 50 x 55. First Prize in Innovative Applique.


Tagged, Patricia Kennedy-Zafred, Murraysville, PA. 84 x 45. First Prize in Digital Imagery. “Executive Order 9066 forced nearly 120,000 people of Japanese heritage living along the Pacific Coast into internment camps.”

I accepted an invitation to attend this year’s International Quilt Festival in Houston, the 41st in its history. Studio Art Quilts Associated (SAQA) invited artists with a piece in either of the two SAQA shows on display at IQF to come to speak about their works.

“Sure!” I said. I had never attended IQF, and couldn’t quite picture exactly what it was, or how all of the exhibitions I saw on their website fit together.

I wandered the immense George R Brown Convention Center in a daze, along with some 60,000 other attendees (over the course of a week). There were some 45 special exhibits.  Some were categories, like Traditional Pieced, Traditional Applique, Small Abstract, Art — Painted Surface, Art — People and Figures, or Art — Whimsical.  Other shows were themed: Affinity, Viewpoint, Digital Alchemy or National Parks. My one piece was in the SAQA show Wild Fabrications, but many women had pieces in several shows.

Traditional Quilts and Modern Art Quilts co-existed in apparent harmony. I read this bit written by Mary Fons last year, which seemed to describe the relationship:

“The biggest trend of late is seeing the modern and traditional worlds blending, maybe in the nick of time. For some years, we had a bit of a standoff between the two groups, which was a shame, but probably only natural. It was like the Protestant Reformation!” she continues, “But traditional quilters can’t help but love beautiful quilts of any kind, and a lot of modern quilters are obsessed with [some traditional methods.]  If people are making quilts, that’s good. Period.”

I agree.

Oh, did I mention there were 1000 vendors booths? It was very hard not to load myself down with the beautiful fabrics and threads so that I couldn’t walk!

I joined the International Quilt Association, so that I will be more on top of the entries to IQF next year.

Enjoy these pictures. 

Cuban Ballerina, Jennifer Day, 38 x 36. Thread painted.

Cuban Ballerina, Jennifer Day, 38 x 36. Thread painted.

Not a City, Betty Hahn, AZ, 52 x 28.

Not a City, Betty Hahn, AZ, 52 x 28.

Vermeer Meets Fassett, Lynn Czaban, OR, 19 x 30

Vermeer Meets Fassett, Lynn Czaban, OR, 19 x 30

Ewe Are My Sunshine, Janet Stone, 63 x 72. This was selected Best in Show, for a $10,000 award. The richness, originality and workmanship cannot be captured in a photo.

Ewe Are My Sunshine, Janet Stone, 63 x 72. This was selected Best in Show, for a $10,000 award. The richness, originality and workmanship cannot be captured in a photo.

Breaking Wind, Peggy Kragnes, MN 80 x 55

Breaking Wind, Peggy Kragnes, MN 80 x 55

Technicolor Deco Shirley Gisi 35

Technicolor Deco,Shirley Desi, CO

On Art Teachers in-service day at GoggleWorks Center for the Arts this week, II taught two 50 minute workshops for Art Quilt fusing techniques.  I managed to explain what an Art Quilt is, demonstrate two techniques, and still give the participating teachers time to practice on their own, and come up with a small piece.

I worked hard on organizing my materials and what to say and do. I even practiced on my husband with a timer going.

I’m happy with how it all turned out.  See some pictures of my smarty arty teachers!

Art teacher showing her very artistic piece that she made in about 30 minutes, using heat activated fusing and fabrics.

Art teacher showing her very artistic piece that she made in about 30 minutes, using heat activated fusing and fabrics.

class 2

Two art teachers with their final products. It tickles me that people so often choose colors that they happen to be wearing. You like what you like!

class 3 class 4 Class 5 Class 6 Class 7

I was surprised and so honored to have my piece featured on the cover of the SAQA Journal (Studio Art Quilts Associates). I will be traveling to Houston October 30 to speak briefly about my work during the opening of Wild Fabrications.  The show will be held in conjunction with IQF, the International Quilt Festival, in Houston. I’ve never attended IQF and am thrilled to have the opportunity to do so.

This piece, Cat and Mouse Game, came together fairly quickly.  I made it specifically for Wild Fabrications. The prospectus challenged,  “Let your imagination run wild as you create interesting and unusual interpretations of animals using unexpected or unconventional materials and adornment, and/or unusual techniques.”

I tried to do that, using lottery tickets, discarded junk food boxes, and found objects.

Here is my artist’s statement:

Cat and Mouse Game

The head of a cat and the body of a mouse on a crazy, trashy background of used lottery tickets and junk food boxes. What fun! Wanna buy a lottery ticket anyone? More losing tickets for me to dumpster-dive for.

Materials: Basket, lids, other found objects, used lottery tickets and junk food boxes, material, thread, batting. Also painted fusible web and dimensional fabric paint.

Techniques: Dumpster diving. Collecting found objects. Glued, sewn, painted.
Anyway, here is Cat and Mouse Game, and the cover of the SAQA Journal, Fall, 2015.

Cover of SAQA Journal, Fall 2015, with Cat and Mouse Game by Martha Ressler

Cover of SAQA Journal, Fall 2015, with Cat and Mouse Game by Martha Ressler

Martha Ressler, Cat and Mouse Game, Detail

Martha Ressler, Cat and Mouse Game, Detail

cat and mouse game 20.5 x 28.5

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!

Some months ago I was contacted by a man I didn’t know. Let’s call him Brett. He was inviting many Pittsburgh area artists to make a portrait of his friend, let’s call him John. John had been having a rough go of it, and Brett’s idea was to curate a large exhibition of portraits, all of John.

Brett was well spoken in his email, and the lead time was sufficient, and the venue for the final exhibit was known to me, and attractive.

Even though I’d moved away from Pittsburgh, I said yes, I’m in.  I liked the originality and generosity of the concept.

I made my art quilt, based on a photo Brett provided. Interestingly, I recognized the background, even though it was blurred. I’d walked by that spot many many times.

Last Saturday I delivered the final product to Brett for safekeeping until the exhibit, which is in 2016.

Here is the artwork, entitled “John of Lawrenceville.” And a picture of Brett and his family when they visited my booth at Fair in the Park to pick up the work.

Here are wafting good spirits and kindness back to Brett and John, and all other artists who have chosen to participate in this project.

Martha Ressler, Studio Art Quilt, John of Lawrenceville, 16.5" x 20" Fabrics, papers, and found objects.

Martha Ressler, Studio Art Quilt, John of Lawrenceville, 16.5″ x 20″ Fabrics, papers, and found objects.

John of Lawrenceville Studio Art Quilt, fabric, papers, and found objects. 16.5 x 20.5-detail

Martha Ressler, Studio Art Quilt, John of Lawrenceville, Detail. 2015, Fabrics, papers and found objects.

"John of Lawrenceville," art quilt by Martha Ressler, Brett, and his family.

“John of Lawrenceville,” art quilt by Martha Ressler, Brett, and his family.