Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy Spring

This time of year finds me with dirt under my fingernails. I can't help it. 

Maybe tomorrow I'll  go inside and sew. Maybe.

Only if I can open the windows wide.

I'll have to set a big vase of daffodils on the table first.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Showing Your Work: part 4 - organizing your entries

Now that you've chosen which kinds of shows to enter (quilt, art quilt, fine art) how do you keep track of it all? You've seen the list of shows that feature art quilts. You're pretty sure you know which ones appeal to you. Now what? Well there are myriad ways to get your act together - here is how I do it. I like to see the big picture with my lists - all the dates on one page. I'm very visual. Waaaay back when I wrote an article about the topic for Quilting Arts Magazine, called Where and How to Show Your Artwork. April/May 2007.

I kept a notebook back when I was in the swing of things. Front page and pack page had two lists, one with shows by entry dates as seen here. This one is printed right from the list on my website. The other described below.

First - make a list of shows you are thinking of entering in order of shipping deadlines Make sure you note entry dates and which are postmarked and which are "received by." Note any other pertinent entry info such as size requirements or expiration dates (my personal pet peeve!) I also noted prized money, commission fees, or anything out of the ordinary such as a live jury (in which you are required to send your actual quilt in for a second jury round.) Oh! Don't forget the virgin quilt rule!!! If any images of your piece filter out anywhere, blogs and your Aunt Martha's Picasa page included, you are OUT!

Second - choose which quilts might go to which shows and note them. The reason my first list if by shipping window is so I can make absolutely sure that shows don't overlap. It's a BIG no-no to enter a quilt in a show, have it accepted, then to withdraw it because it already got into an overlapping show.

Third - when a quilt is accepted into a show I put the shipping date on my calendar in big bold letters. My worst nightmare is to forget to ship a quilt. Funny story. As I was packing down one show I had curated I noticed that there was a quilt missing. As far as I knew, it had never arrived and somehow I had missed seeing that. Immediate panic. Had the quilt been lost in the mail for months? I took a big gulp and called the artist. She had completely forgotten about the show and hadn't sent it. I was SOOOOO relieved. At the same time, I had to laugh because that is so like something I might do.

Inside the notebook:
Entry forms.
  • Sleeve protecter for copies of entries I had sent out. I wrote big and bold on the top corner of the form the names of the quilts.
  • Sleeve protectors for accepted entries. I wrote (again) big and bold the shipping deadline and filed them in order.
  • Sleeve protector for entry forms of quilts that were currently out.
  • Sleeve protector for quilts that had come back in.
  • Page with all the vital stats for my quilts: date, size, price, insurance info.
  • Page for each quilt with a sow history and awards, yes - I also fear I'll enter the a quilt in the same show twice. I have a sieve for a brain.
  • Sleeve for appraisals and their copies.

Of course all of this information can be kept on your computer now. (Then again, when is the last time YOU backed everything up?) It's getting easier with digital entries and burning a CD or mailing off a jpg is much easier than sending slides.

Robbi Ecklow's article Use Calendars to Keep Track of Your Show Submissions in Quilting Arts Magazine  February/March 2010 brings things quite up to date. In it Robbi shows you how to use any calendaring program (she uses ical) to list the entry deadlines as well as shipping and show dates.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Just Foiling Around

Next month I'll be teaching one of my favorite classes at the American Quilt Festival in Paducah, Kentucky. This is one of the BIG shows in the quilt world and it will be my first time there. I'm excited! I've heard so much about Paducah's Artist Relocation Program, it sounds like a dream come true to me. Caryl Bryer Fallert has her studio there now and I've always wanted to be Caryl Bryer Fallert when I grow up.

But I digress. The class I wanted to tell you about is called "Just Foiling Around: Foil, Glitter, and Painted Wonder-Under." Yup. You heard right - painted Wonder-Under. It's fusible paint - you can tear it, cut it, play with it, and I'm completely addicted to using it in my work. It gives a lovely and mysterious texture to the surface of your work and is a very versatile.

I'm also addicted to the shine and whimsy and wonder of foil. It can be very subtle or flashy, smooth or textured, and yes, it comes in many colors other than gold - I just have a thing for gold.

There is still space available in the class. #6504 on Wednesday Evening the 21st of April from 5:30 - 8:30pm. Late in the evening I know - but I'm hoping to have enough room in my suitcase for .... chocolate! If that isn't worth coming for I don't know what is!? Hope to see you there.

And the WINNER is....

MARSHA!!! Who commented here on March 15th at 4:35.

Please contact me at Lyric at
Thanks to all of you for your comments.
Stay tuned for next month's artist.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Artist Spotlight part 3: Melanie Testa - up and coming

Our last week with Melanie Testa has arrived and I thought I'd give her the chance to let you know of a wonderful event she has coming up. If you can get to Hampton, VA - run, do not walk, to join her at Art and Soul.... in her own words:

For me, teaching is about interacting with students, the exchange and interplay of knowledge to such an extent that I too learn and grow from the experience. The supremely awesome thing is that students have 'beginners mind', an attitude of openness and eagerness and a lack of preconceptions. Who wouldn't feel invigorated by this? In May, I will be teaching at an event called Art and Soul.  This retreat is held in Hampton Virginia, just as the weather begins to warm up and all the flowers are in bloom.

I will be teaching two classes, Inspired Journaling, every-single-day! on Sunday, May 23  which will cover visual journaling and we will explore using resists, paints and glues to create luscious pages in our journals. No need to 'worry' over your drawing skillz! I will help push and cajole those fear where they belong.

And a Soy Wax Batik class on Monday, May 24 . Soy wax, beside being very easy to use, is an ecologically safe alternative to paraffin. It is a magical medium that yields almost instantaneous results. To make it even easier on you, we will be using paint instead of my beloved dye which has proven to yield just as lovely results!

So if you have the time and are near this fabulous retreat, please come and join in on the fun! I would love to have you.

I'd love to thank Melanie for taking the time to say hello to you all. As in our first introduction, she is an amazing artist and a wonderful person. Don't forget to leave a comment - especially if you've had a class with Melanie in the past. What was your favorite thing about the class?

You can leave one comment on each of the four Artist Spotlight posts about Melanie. Late Tuesday night I'll randomly choose one winner from among comments on the four posts to receive this original collaborative work. Melanie sent a lovely sheer organza printed with ginkgo leaves for me to work with. I've layered it with a peachy piece of hand-dyed cotton, printed with another set of ginkgo leaves. I also layered a few more leaves on the surface with a hint of gold foil. The 5"x7" piece is machine and hand stitched with a spray of gold beads scattered across the surface.

Wednesday morning I'll announce the winner so please be sure to check back so that you can send me your contact information. 

If you can't get enough of gingko leaves head on over to Melanie's blog - where she has created a little work of art with the ginkgo fabric that I sent to her. Same deal there - comment on each of her four posts about me. I'd especially love it if you've had a class with me - tell them what you loved or learned.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Sunshine Award

So - if you've seen my studio you can't help but notice all the ribbons hanging up along the top of the design wall. I used to keep them in a box. Then I used to have them pinned to the wall but tucked behind the bookshelf. When I remodeled the studio I decided that they needed some sunshine up on the wall.

In that same vein, thanks to Robin for the lovely Sunshine Award. Most often I ignore all such things. But the sky outside it a brilliant blue, and the flower in the picture is one of my happy colors today. And of course I thought you might enjoy some of the same artists I love.

The Sunshine Award is an award given to blogs that have positive and creative blogging. The Rules for receiving the award are:
1. Post the Logo in a blog or on the sidebar.
2. Pass the award on to 12 bloggers that you follow.
3. Link the nominees with in your post.
4. Let the nominees know they have received the award by leaving a comment on their blog.
5. Share the love and link to the person who gave you the award.
Now I get to pass this Sunshine on to 12 Creative Bloggers and bring sunshine into their day.

Here are 12 of my current happy places.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Showing Your Work: part 3 - choosing venues

We've talked about how the jury process works and some of the reasons work is rejected. Of course, as Jamie Fingal pointed out in the comments, there are myriad factors that go into a works being accepted or rejected. No matter what - it's a roll of the dice any time you enter a show.

Today let's talk about what kind of shows are available to the textile/quilt artist. I'll divide them into three general categories: Quilt Shows, Art Quilt Shows, Fine Art Shows

1- Quilt Shows
This is what the general public thinks of when you say "quilt." A gymnasium somewhere with traditional quilts and grey haired "quilt police" counting stitches with a magnifying glass. Fortunately this stereotype. While accurate in some instances, it is in many cases a very wonderful place to show your artwork. Most quilt shows now have art categories but the judges don't always come from an art background. If you are making cutting edge art - think hard about why you are still entering a quilt show.

I love traditional quilts and and greatly admire the mastery of technique that wins many a ribbon there. And I DO think that traditional quilts can be works of art in and of themselves. It's one of the things I love about the quilt as a medium of expression. There is room for everyone at every level of creative expression in the quilt world.

Many quilt shows offer the chance to be seen by a large number of people in a short time. If you want to teach quilters, it is great for them to be familiar with your work. Sometimes prize money is offered. In fact, sometimes, a LOT of prize money is offered.
Most of the people that see your quilt are more interested in buying fabric than your artwork. There is rarely a mechanism set up for people to buy your work from a quilt show. Only a very few people actually win those cash prizes - but, hey, it could happen!
Do your research. Does the show have art categories? How many people see it? Does it have a great reputation for treating the quilts with respect?

2- Art Quilt Shows
A show that is looking specifically for textiles but is hung and treated like a fine art show. The jurors are looking for original work, excellent composition and design. It is up to the curators how far into the innovative arena of textiles they want to venture. Some do not want work mounted in a hard frame, some require all the materials to be cloth rather than mixed media. Most are quite flexible in their requirements.

Deborah Sniders' ENCRUSTACEANS I on the right
Photo by Debbie Bein (and more on her blog!)

Your work will be treated as fine art. Period. I know that in my middle-to-small sized town, the art quilt shows we sponsor at the community galleries draw the biggest "crowds. "
I'm having a hard time thinking of any. Tell me some in the comments. Some of the venues don't get a large viewership. 
Just as with any entry - do your research to see if your work fits. I maintain a list of these types of shows on my website - take a look.

3- Fine Art Shows
This is your regular gallery, museum, or whatever-space-available show but is geared primarily towards traditional paintings or sculpture. Most are more accepting of textiles these days. Not all - one show I entered (and won a prize in) insisted my work be put in the "fine crafts" category and displayed it on a pedestal on the floor with ceramics and wood pieces instead of on the wall even though it was wired and ready to hang. 

The people who go to these shows are expecting to see fine art and will not think of your work as a blanket. Unless of course you entered a ratty old blanket as a piece of conceptual art and then they would probably give it best of show. Most of these shows have a mechanism for viewers to purchase the work.
Some won't even look at textiles. Some staffers or volunteers will be stymied when you ask for two nails in the wall rather than one to hang your work - even when you send in a clear and simple instructions pinned to the back of the work.

Bottom line = do your homework. Ask yourself why you want to enter a show and then make your decisions accordingly. I'd love to hear your opinion!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Studio Classes

I have it good. I have a loving family who is supportive and patient and I get to work time with some of the most wonderful people in the world. I have a passion for creating artwork and a place in which to pursue that passion. 

The family - never complains about take-out dinners and is used to a pretty messy house. We're slowly working on getting the kids to pick up their own stuff. I have an id that particular quest will not end until their stuff moves out along with them. And I just won't talk about complaints about dinners I actually cook.

Those people I get to work with? Students! And the ideal students at that. They are there because they really want to be there. They are inquisitive, talented, and open to what they are taught.  Even if they don't admit to being any of those three things - they are. I always learn so much from them as well.

The space I have to create art in is a blessing. I'm next to the main living area so that I can hear and see what is going on with the kids. I can look out the window and see them when they are playing outside. The space perfect for me to freely create whatever my brain can put together.

In a few weeks I get to combine the last two - students - studio! (The family will be gently kept elsewhere.) Students will have the opportunity to come to my home and my studio  in Cary, North Carolina, and lean, play, and create for two days. 

Thursday April 8th: Surface Design Sampler Platter
It's truly a little taste of everything and one of the funnest classes I teach. We dip into techniques such as printing, stamp carving, stenciling, photo transfer, thermofax screen printing, and foiling! Oops! I almost forgot beadwork. Elizabeth and Ellen both took this class at the Virginia Quilt Celebration in 2008 - the fabric says it all!

Friday April 9th: The Forgotten Fabrics and Screen Printing

There are some wonderfully fun things you can do with synthetic fabrics (gasp!) Disperse dyes are completely different than Procion dyes, and totally fun to work with.

The screen printing we'll do this day is very free, fast, and fun. We'll use regular full sized screens in some very interesting and  improvisational ways.

There are still a few spots available. If you are interested in joining us please contact me at Lyric (at)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Artist Spotlight part 3: Melanie Testa - process

The past two weeks I've enjoyed introducing you to a favorite artist of mine, Melanie Testa. Today I'd like to introduce you to her artwork. Together we'll learn a little more about her process.

Lyric: I've seen just a bit of your visual journaling and it is just as lovely as your artwork. How do sketching and drawing help you in your textile work? Why did you choose textiles rather than a more traditional media?

Melanie: My journals are so import to me that I can't imagine not keeping them. I draw inspiration for stamps, marks, actual artwork, they help me to remain focused creatively. Just today, I met up with a friend and we went to the Met to draw, I feel so alive when I am looking at and evaluating what I see. When the line looks like what I am trying to draw, it is such a thrill. I can't take that for granted! But even though I utilize my journals and sometimes even share them when I write articles, the journals are private, they feel intensely personal to me.

As for why I work in cloth? I could not have it any other way. I just tried to imagine myself as an oil painter. I need the ragged edge, the dye, the stamps, the sewing machine.

L: I am fascinated by your juxtaposition of symbols and words with imagery from nature. How do you go about choosing which images to combine? How did you come upon the process of layering images with sheers?

M: Working with sheers came about as a result of journaling. I came to a place where I found my journals held more artistic focus and intention than my quilt art, but my quilt art was more important to me! So I evaluated the difference in approach and technique. I had been using tracing paper in my journals, I would trace a drawing from one page onto tracing paper, paint around and over the tracing, then glue that onto another painted page. The transparency is what held sway. So I figured out cloth equivalents to my favorite techniques. Silk organza became tracing paper and could be dyed with Procion MX dyes.

I started using words in my art because I was working with a man who used words in his paintings but I could not stand how he did it! I started using text and symbols because I knew there had to be a better approach. The words ought to merge with and become one with the piece almost as though in pentimento. As for using nature in my work, I find great solace in all things natural. 

L: Do you work from a plan or do you improvise as you go?

M: I like to plan loosely. Right now I just started a series if 20 Common Birds in Decline. I am working on an image of an Evening Grosbeak. the drawing of the bird needs to be perfected before I begin because the artwork is only as good as your original drawing. But the background and the collaged elements are not in the original drawing. I like to leave as much as possible to chance.

L: What is it about birds that draws you to use them so much in your artwork?

M: When I was a girl, I wanted to be a bird, to be able to flit, watch and leave by taking flight! I began bonding with birds when I was a teenager, my father had bought a bird feeder and a Roger Torey Peterson identification book and we began putting names to shapes and colorings. As an adult, I started keeping my own feeder, then bought binoculars, and now study and read all I can. Right now, I am an armchair bird watcher! Simply? The shiny sparkle of light in a birds eye bowls me over, I can't resist it. 

L: Your use of stitching is so well integrated into the composition of your work. Do you begin with your stitched lines in mind or do those ideas come afterwards.

M: I do loosely plan the images used in my work. As I print, paint and stamp, ideas will float past and reveal themselves, but it is only when I get to the sewing machine that I can listen to and enact a plan for the stitch.

L: If you went to a desert island for a week and could only take a shoebox of art supplies, what would it contain?

My backpack is about the size of a shoebox and often contains, scrap, batting, needles, thread, embroidery floss and beads, a journal and a small box of paints, one pencil, two pens (Pilot t500 and a Pentel Pocketbrush) and a niji water brush. My wallet can be left behind to accommodate more cloth, perferably hand dyed dupioni, my current cloth crush. :)

So dear readers, are you as in love with Melly's work as I am? Her process fascinates me and I've enjoyed studying it and sharing with with you.

I've finished the 5x7 piece from the ginkgo fabric that Melanie sent to me. Next week I'll tally up all of the comments on the four posts featuring her. Yes, you can leave a comment on each post and be counted four times!

I'll throw the lot into a random number generator (or have one of the kidlets shout out a number between so and so) and the lucky winner will be sent this lovely little piece of art. It is 5x7 and made with the beautiful piece of organza printed by Melanie. I do believe that she is posting the piece she made with the fabric I sent her on her blog this week as well.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Goddess of the Last Minute Feels Rejected

The very first person to befriend me when our family spent a lovely two years in Chicago was the wonderfully witty Robbi Eklow. On my very first visit to the area she picked me up for a few hours of bead hunting and laughter and I've counted her as a friend ever since. I have enjoyed following her career as an artist and author and highly recommend her latest book, "Goddess of the Last Minute."

One of my all-time favorite writings of hers is her response to the rejection letters we all receive. She has graciously permitted me to repost it in it's entirety for you pleasure. Pull it up next time you receive a rejection and you'll be smiling again in no time!

What if quilt shows offered you the chance to write your own acceptance/rejection letter? Or what if they wrote letters saying what they REALLY meant, instead of those nice ones that usually say how hard it was to choose just a few quilts out of all the excellent ones that were sent to them?
Here are a few of my offerings:
• Your work has been accepted into our quilt show, please peel yourself off the ceiling at the earliest convenience.
• Your work has been accepted into our quilt show, please follow the enclosed directions for shipping it to us. And thanks for the box of homemade cookies. The jury was impressed.
• Your work has NOT been accepted into our quilt show, please proceed to the nearest quart of Mint Chocolate chip icecream and dig in.
• Your work is fabulous, we can't believe we didn't notice this before and have you in our quilt show every year. In the meantime, we are looking forward to receiving your current entry and possibly putting it on the cover of our book.
• We declined to accept your work in this year's our quilt show, due to the butt headedness of our jury. Although we could not convince them to recant, we have decided never to have them again, and next time will ask them what they think of your work BEFORE we invite them to jury.
• We're sorry, we cannot accept your work into our quilt show this year. In fact, we doubt we'll ever accept your work into our quilt show. Perhaps you should consider learning to operate a pottery wheel. We're keeping your slides in an effort to prevent you from inflicting your poor taste on another jury.
• We are declining your quilt entry this year. Whatever made you think we would consider a quilt using puce and chartruce in the same quilt? We are enclosing a free coupon for a color class at your local community college.
• Puleeze! Your work looks just like (insert famous quilter's name here). Haven't you had an original idea in the last ten years? Not that (insert famous quilter's name here) has, but that's beside the point.
• We are so sorry to have declined to accept your work into this year's quilt show. Your work is so incredibly amazing, the workmanship divine, NOTHING else submitted can stand up to it, why the WHOLE show would have looked shabby compared to your work. Since we do not want to hurt the rest of the artist's feelings, we have decided not to show them up by including your work.
• Dear Mrs. Eklow, even though technically, your husband's 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado DOES qualify as a quilt (three layers:metal, upholstery and padding, held together by bolts) we feel that the shipping costs of the traveling show would be prohibitive. We did consider using the trunk as a storage area for the REST of the show, but we can't find a garage big enough to house the car, and it's reported gas mileage of 5 gallons to the mile makes that idea inefficient. That said, we do admire your efforts to find a way to get rid of the vehicle once and for all without hurting your husband's feelings.
• Dear Mrs. Robbi Joy Eklow: Unfortunately for you, we aren't taking your quilt/quilts into our show this year. Mrs. Robbi Joy Eklow, we had over 750 submittals, but we can only show 25 quilts. However we do appreciate the $40 entry fee you sent, please send another $50 if you'd like a ticket to the opening night. We need to cover our expenses. Mrs. Robbi Joy Eklow your work was one of the outstanding entrees, and we're not just saying that even though this is obviously a form letter.
• Dear Mrs. Eklow, we can't accept your quilts into our multimedia show this year. We prefer the avant guarde work we've been showing for the past 40 years and will continue to reserve our exhibition space for those artists who've shown their work for that period of time. And this year, we'd appreciate it if you'd decline to send a rebuttal letter to our rejection letter. We don't care if you think those fabric blankets of yours deserve to hang next to or in place of the lovely oil paintings of dogs playing poker.
• Please return the enclosed postcard along with a check for $50 to receive a ticket to the opening night reception. We know you'd like nothing better than to spend an evening fawning over the artists who DID make it into our fabulous show. Drinks will start at 9pm, $10 for wine, $15 for margaritas. And we've got those cute little hotdogs floating in barbeque sauce. $3