Once a month at two local shops, I hold an ongoing class called Art Journal Quilts. This class is aimed at exploring various techniques or design approaches that are more ‘artistic’ than the traditional methods/designs usually pursued in quilting. Fabric painting/printing, embroidery, 3-D manipulation, embellishment… we explore a different project each month to create quilts in a small format (which means they may actually get finished instead of floating around as UFOs).
Some students attend and just experiment with the technique, filing it away for future reference but there are several who are quite prolific in completing their projects. I am so delighted when any of them bring a completed project in following months to show and share with the class and over the years, I have built up quite a collection of photos of their quilts. I hope to be able to add these to my blog on a regular basis. As much as I love posting pictures of my own work, it gives a better perspective when I can show the same assignment from different minds and hands.
A couple of months ago, we played with flat piping to create very fine framing lines between pieced squares and rectangles. The resulting lines were far thinner than one could hope to create by inserting a narrow strip in the more traditional approach and also added a nice subtle dimension to the surface texture. Though this method could be applied to any pieced design, I chose to use the work of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian as inspiration, his geometric arrangement of squares and rectangles in primary colors was a natural for this.
These small quilts were made from my Art Journal Class on Piped Mondrian.
For those interested in joining one of my Art Journal Classes, they are held once a month at Pioneer Quilts in Milwaukie (usually the first Friday of each month) and at Sewn Loverly in Wilsonville (usually the last Thursday of each month); contact either shop for more information or to enroll. Please note that the projects and lessons will vary from month to month, the images shown above do not represent the class assignment for an upcoming class.
The photos of projects from my April workshop in Las Vegas keep trickling in. I must say – not only am I pleased with the beauty and creativity of their work but also with their follow through; I always ask students to send me pictures of their finished projects but rarely get as much response as I have from the Desert Quilters in Nevada. The two images here are from one student who did two of the class projects and is working on a third that she promises to send me when it is done.
Now onto my latest workshop: I taught my Animal Totem class to the Westside Quilters Guild last weekend, I had a fabulous turnout for the class. I did manage to snap a few pictures before the end of the class and hope to get more as students complete their quilts. Several (more than usual) chose to hand applique their projects so those may take awhile, it seems these days most students prefer a faster method but as a dedicated member of the ‘Secret Society of Handworkers’ (not really a guild – I’m being facetious) myself, it always pleases me to see hand applique is not a lost art. My heartfelt thanks to the Westside Quilters for a successful class.
A few of the Totems from my workshop for the Westside Quilt Guild last weekend
Some new additions to my own collection of Small Wonders are two samples I finished for my Journal Quilts classes. I hold these once a month at two shops in the Portland Metro Area – Pioneer Quilts in Milwualkie (the first Friday of each month) and Sewn Loverly in Wilsonville (the last Thursday of each month), In these three-hour sessions we explore techniques a bit more on the artistic side than traditional quilting, Stamping, embroidering, beading, painting, fabric manipulation, embellishing… we poke our noses into just about anything fiber arts related and the students get an opportunity to learn and try techniques on small projects (I call them ‘Small Wonders’) that beats experimenting on a larger project and finding that it’s really not your cup of tea and then relegating it to your UFO pile. If, on the other hand, you do find you like the process, you now have yet another skill you can add to future projects and expand your horizons.
Last month at Pioneer Quilts, we explored an approach to embellishment I was inspired to from a report I heard on NPR. It concerned an approach to composing music based on a sort of DNA model and what is called The Music of the Spheres – a composition in which each celestial body (or musical instrument) follows its own repetitive cycle or beat that might be static on its own but blended together with others forms a complex pattern. I wondered as I listened to the report if there was a way I could express this visually with embellishment and my artwork ‘Music of the Spheres’ was the result. The previous month we explored working with flat piping at both shops and the design approach was inspired by the abstract work of Dutch artist Piet Mondrian who created a series of works consisting of squares and rectangles in primary colors divided by graphic narrow black lines (we used the flat piping here). My instructional layout yielded an area larger than the rest of the arrangement that cried out for a motif so I hand embroidered the iconic ‘She Who Watches’ petroglyph on my sample. The last image is of yet another Bella Vista landscape, this one of Mt. Hood portrayed in moonlight.
I will be giving the Bella Vista Landscapes workshop in a few weeks for the Crook County Quilt Guildover in Prineville, the Mt Hood pattern will be one of several pattern options.
Have Needle – Will Stitch… I am passionate about hand embroidery, not a shred of embroidery floss goes to waste in this house. Among my favorite projects are these little embroidered and stuffed felt ornaments; I crank them out like clockwork. I also love teaching them as a class and do so on a fairly regular basis; I had several classes this fall (though one was cancelled due to lack of enrollment).
My own story of how I got started in this goes back 30 years to when a Pier 1 Import store opened in my home town of Pacific Grove California. I’d always loved import stores – the scents and exotic treasures… It was around Christmastime and they were selling these lovely embroidered ornaments from India for around $6 each – a king’s ransom for someone on a budget of $100 for ALL my Christmas shopping (and I would have wanted more than one of these on my tree). My grandma taught me to embroider when I was a child and I figured I could make some of these myself. My first ones were birds, what could be more appropriate to perch in a tree than birds? Ultimately, I ended up with a whole menagerie, the bird population was starting to get out of control so I embroidered a couple of cats to keep them in check and then the cats needed something more than just the birds so I created some fish. Now I have parrots, peacocks, owls, Thunderbirds, flying elephants, even some Day of the Dead flowered skulls… and I’m nowhere near done yet, I’m still designing others and I’m thinking of publishing these as patterns.
There is an adage about not judging until you have walked a mile in someone’s shoes; the irony I learned from my exploration into making these ornaments is that there is no way I would or could make and sell one for $6, the materials alone to make one of these typically runs about $3+ and that’s if I buy the cheapest acrylic craft felt out there (I like the wool felt at about $15 per yard); add 6-8 colors of embroidery floss, fiber fill, beads, sequins and jingle bells or tassels and about 4-6 hours of labor… you can do the math.
One of the things I love about teaching this class is the way my students interpret their own embroidery styles, I see them combining and applying stitches that I would not have thought of and even when they opt to try and simply copy one of my arrangements, there is a uniqueness to each one. I have posted pictures of my own ornaments in the recent past, now I want to show you a variety of ornaments embroidered by my students.
And speaking of classes – it breaks my heart to cancel a class. Not only does it not benefit me financially but it also is a disappointment to the student(s) who bought their materials and eagerly anticipated the class. Though I try hard to hold a class even for few students, there is a break point where I cannot in good business practice do so. I recently had to cancel an all day class for one where I would have been paid about $30 but the IRS mileage calculation would have been $32, a big red flag to the IRS when business expenses exceed revenues. I do what I can to promote the classes and rely on the shops who see customers face to face to promote them as well but class attendance is down across the board for many other teachers as well as myself. If you have signed up for a class that you really want to take, please reach out to your quilting friends and suggest they register as well, we teachers will often teach for a small group but we just can’t afford to run our businesses at a loss – I haven’t had much luck convincing my bank to take embroidered ornaments in trade for the mortgage payment. By bringing along a friend or two, you may insure that the class you want will actually take place.