Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

old billboard outside reading pa lo res

The inspiration for this piece was the first scene in the movei “3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO.” The billboards were old, and torn. I thought they looked neat — in an worn, textured kind of way.

There is a tacky sign outside Reading saying something like, “Mayor Wally Scott welcomes you to the city of positive change.” It has such a temporary feel that it looks like it could be moved, changed, or maybe just blow over at any moment.

Anyway, those two images came together in my mind for this piece. It got a bit overworked. Sorry about that.  At this point it is what it is.

In case you are wondering, the figure in the lower left of the old billboard is Morelos, hero of the Mexican revolution.  He was on a peso note that I had.

And I want to add that there are many people working hard to make Reading a vibrant town again. I do count myself among them. But that doesn’t mean that I’m blind to the ironies and contradictions of what is still the poorest city over 85,000 in the US. It was once great, but not all of the change has been positive.

Martha Ressler

Old Billboard Outside Reading, PA

Art Quilt

16 x 20″

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.

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!



At this time of year I am so grateful to live in a Northern clime.  The “change of seasons” we all claim we love can work against us in February.  But in April and May watching the leaves burst forth in their yellow-green bounty is pure joy.  My studio looks out onto our garden, filled with flowers and birds, and from there to the wildflower meadow and treeline beyond. Yes, it calls to me to come out and weed and plant.  But it also demands its story be told in art quilts.

All of these are from talking walks near my house.  In the case of “North Mountain,” I only have to walk out of my front door.

I’ve been working on smaller scale pieces, getting ready for the many art fairs coming up this year.

My husband Jay has been making the frames to float these pieces.  Inside each is a 5 x 7 fully finished little art quilt. They are poplar, routed, sanded, cut and oil stained, then hand rubbed wax finish.

Here are some of them.

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.”


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.


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.

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 had thought to make today’s blog post about my experiments adapting “convergence” quilts in my work.
I had wanted to show different steps in the process — you know, like a cooking show.
But, alas, my working space is currently occupied by another project in midstream.
And that must be completed before tomorrow morning when my art student arrives for her lesson.
I call her “the creative storm” because what she leaves in her wake is akin to the detritus from a mighty tidal wave.
So,here we are on a Thursday morning, my appointed “blog posting time.” Here goes an abbreviated version, minus the Cooking Show step by step perfection.
I borrowed Ricky Tims’ “Convergence Quilts” from the Quiltescence Quilters lending library.
Basically you cut strips of stacked fabrics, sew them together, then cut cross ways, and sew again. There are all kinds of variations.
The Quilts in Ricky’s book are full sized quilts, using this technique throughout.
Attractive as they are, the overall geometric style is not for me. But I began to think of how I could use some of the techniques.
I experimented, and found a design that I thought might work for a theme I have had in mind: Old wood. Specifically, our wood pile. There are so many variations and interesting designs in those aging sections of logs.
The pictures show the cover of Ricky Tims’ “Convergence Quilts, Mysterious, Magical, Easy and Fun,” Published by C&T Publishing.
Secondly, a piece of my own convergence quilting, using four different fabrics.
And finally, a finished 12 x 12 piece, tentatively called “The Wood Pile.”
Even when I’m cooking things don’t turn out like the cooking shows. I actually have to take time to wash the dishes!

Example of convergence piecing technique. Martha Ressler

Example of convergence piecing technique. Martha Ressler

Convergence Quilts

Cover of Ricky Tims’ Convergence Quilts, C&T Publishing

log pile

Martha Ressler, Wood Pile, 12 x 12, fabric, paper and found object collage on wood panel. 2015

Someone asked me how I get ideas for my art?

Occasionally the animus will be a gob-smack, awestruck moment.  An example was our visit to the Angel Oak in South Carolina this summer.  It is the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi, and experiencing it by walking around its immense, twisted limbs made me feel the weight of history and the wonder of nature. It was almost as if I could see tableaus of history in the deeply grooved bark. The truck was scarred. Some long limbs were propped up on posts to support their immense weight. I breathed in the fragrance. Yes, I was awestruck.

I’ll include the sketch I made on the spot and my first study for “Angel Oak.” The final piece, which will be very large, is not complete yet.  When it is done I’ll post that too.

One such moment can lead to other, related pieces. I’m paying more attention to old trees, and also dead and rotting wood. I’ll include a sketch of our wood pile.  Let’s see where this takes me next.

More commonly, my inspiration is not so momentous.  A glint of sunlight on the road was the inspiration for Country Road, a smaller piece. I’ll include my sketch and the final piece. Sometimes it is a trick of sun and shadow, a worn surface, or the shapes in a landscape. I try to pay attention to my gut response to a visual stimulus and take it from there.



Angel Oak Study country road 12 x 12